The hon. Gentleman has raised this issue with me in the House before with his usual tenacity and clarity. Family leave and pay entitlements focus on supporting employed parents, because they do not generally have as much flexibility or autonomy in taking time off. However, we are not ruling out further support for self-employed parents, but that must be considered carefully in the wider context of tax, benefits and rights over the long term.
I want the Minister not just to rule it out; I want him to become a champion inside the Government along with his Women and Equalities colleagues. Shared parental leave for freelance workers would be one of the best ways to help women in the workforce to continue pursuing their careers. I ask the Minister to go away and think about that and to become a champion, rather than just someone who does not rule it out.
I certainly understand the hon. Gentleman’s impatience, but progress is being made. He will know that a self-employed mother who wants to return to work without using her full maternity allowance entitlement can now convert that into 37 weeks of shared parental leave and pay for the employed father or partner. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that we are considering the matter with great interest, and I will try to update him as soon as possible.
Given my hon. Friend’s personal interest in this matter, will he join me in supporting the Government’s “Share the joy” campaign to encourage greater take-up of shared parental leave?
I thank my hon. Friend. I assure him that Alice’s arrival into the world has certainly given me a greater understanding of the joy that comes from parenthood. The “Share the joy” campaign is a Government initiative to promote the benefits of shared parental leave, because we want more parents to enjoy that time with their newborn baby. My hon. Friend can rest assured that we will continue to promote shared parental leave to get more parents to enjoy it.
I very much hope that the Minister will have today’s Official Report framed and hung up in Alice’s room.