The SNP has launched its manifesto, pledging to increase maternity pay to 100% of a woman’s average weekly earnings for the first 12 weeks and to introduce 12 extra weeks of Shared Parental Leave earmarked for dads.
The party says that in addition to increases in SMP for the first 12 weeks the next 40 weeks will be paid at 90% of average weekly earnings or £150, whichever is lower. It wants to see shared parental leave increased from 52 to 64 weeks, with the additional 12 weeks to be the minimum taken by the father in order to encourage an increase in shared parental leave.
It adds that it will campaign to introduce a principle of ‘use it or lose it’– whereby the paternity leave cannot be transferred in order to encourage fathers to take the leave – while protecting maternity leave if a couple choose not to take advantage of the provision. On childcare, it says it is already working to expand free care for three and four year olds and disadvantaged two year olds by 2021 and that, if returned to government after the next Holyrood election, it will expand childcare into the school holidays for primary pupils from the poorest backgrounds.
On benefits, the party says it will campaign to end the two child cap on tax credits and the associated rape clause, to end the benefit sanctions regime and to halt Universal Credit. It says it will also press for an immediate end to the benefit freeze and for uplifts in the value of income replacement benefits of at least inflation.
On pensions, the party says it will seek to protect the Triple Lock so pensions continue to rise by inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent – whatever is highest. It is against any increase in the pension age and says it will support the WASPI campaign as well as fighting to reverse the cut to Pension Credit.
On tax, it says it will support a review of IR35 legislation and a comprehensive inquiry into delays in the digitisation of tax.
The Democratic Unionist Party launched its manifesto in Northern Ireland on Thursday with support for an end to the freeze on benefits, a call for the Working Tax Credit to increase by the rate of inflation plus 0.5% and robust action against companies who fail to comply with the National Living Wage.
The manifesto said the DUP would support a rise in Personal Tax allowance in line with inflation each year and an increase in National Insurance allowances over the next Parliamentary term until they match personal tax allowances. The DUP will also support a rise in the National Living Wage (NLW) to £10.50 by the end of the Parliamentary term.
On pensions, it supports the pensions ‘triple lock’ protection and retaining winter fuel payments as a universal benefit. And on the WASPI women, it says it would support “a suitable compensatory scheme established”.
Meanwhile, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland has said it would campaign for a full review of the UK welfare system, including ending sanctions and replacing them with an incentive-based system, reducing the five-week wait for the first payment and offering an interim payment and removing the two-child limit on Universal Credit and the benefits cap. On employment rights it wants to see robust regulation of the “gig” economy, including zero-hour contracts and entitlements and protections for casual workers and an increase statutory maternity pay (SMP) and Maternity Allowance to the same level as the minimum wage.
On childcare it is calling for a refreshed childcare strategy that “ensures sustainable funding for high quality, free and affordable childcare, encourages the growth of Sure Start centres and promotes wraparound care and other flexible options”.
On carers, it advocates an increase in the Carer’s Allowance, bringing it into line with Job Seekers’ Allowance, and supports funding and legislation to entitle carers to respite provision so that they can have regular breaks from the responsibility of providing care.
And on pensions, it is in favour of retaining the triple lock on the state pension and ensuring an annual uplift linked to inflation and is calling for transitional support to those women who have been affected by the decision to bring the date of the increase in the women’s retirement age forward.
Sinn Fein wants a ban on zero hours contracts, an increase in the minimum wage of €1 an hour and a move towards a living wage, the introduction of banded hour contracts and the restoration of pay and conditions of low paid public sector workers.
The SDLP says it will oppose cuts to benefits, tax credits and pensions and pledges to provide more free childcare to parents who are working or in training or education. It says it will increase pre-school childcare provision from 12.5 hours per week to 20 hours per week immediately, with a view to further increasing it to 30 hours once the new budget is agreed. It says it will also safeguard existing funding for childcare through the childcare strategy and ensure that this fund is fully utilised.
In Wales, Plaid Cymru’s pledges include a ‘green jobs revolution’, free social care for the elderly through a new National Health and Social Care Service and a universal free childcare for 40 hours a week, and a new £35 a week payment for every child in low income families.
The Brexit Party’s manifesto has very little related to working families apart from a pledge to review Universal Credit and bring in unspecified reforms within two years and to review “the position of women unexpectedly short-changed by recent rises in the state pension age”.