The Government has announced an extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme...read more
The Government should lower the amount higher-earning working mothers can receive from the state through Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) and the money saved should be used to increase the base rate for maternity and paternity pay, according to a new report from a right-wing think tank.
The report by the Bright Blue Thinktank calls for changes to SMP, allowing a right to request flexible working from day one in a job, a loans system for childcare and the scrapping of employment tribunal fees for basic rate tax payers.
SMP is made up of six weeks paid at 90% of average salary followed by 33 weeks at the statutory rate, currently 140.98 pounds. Employers pay SMP, but most can be claimed back from the government. The report calls for the cap on the 90% element to be reduced. Britain has one of the longest periods of maternity leave in Europe, but very little of that is paid at an earnings-related rate, compared to other countries which cap that level of pay.
The report, Britain breaking barriers: strengthening human rights and tackling discrimination, also recommends that all new parents should be offered government-backed, income-contingent loans to pay for formal childcare when their children are under the age of five. It says that, similar to the loans university students receive to pay for their tuition fees, parents would pay their childcare loans back only when they are working and earning above a certain income.
It also calls for gender pay audits to be extended to all employers, with SMEs getting free software to help them carry out the audit; for all workers, including casual workers and zero hours workers, to have the right to paid leave to attend antenatal appointments with a healthcare professional; for Health Visitors to be obliged to tell
all new mothers and fathers they visit about the availability of Shared Parental Leave and Pay; and for all advertised jobs in the civil service and government agencies, including senior civil service role, to have name-blind and
gender-blind recruitment procedures.
The report is based on the findings of a commission which is backed by three former Conservative ministers, including Maria Miller, chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee.