Weekly news round-up: flexible working, army compensation case, marriage and election issues

The Conservatives would extend the statutory right to request flexible working to all public sector workers, the shadow Chancellor announced as the party unveiled its manifesto for public sector workers. Plus other news.

The Conservatives would extend the statutory right to request flexible working to all public sector workers, the shadow Chancellor announced as the party unveiled its manifesto for public sector workers last week.
Osbourne says: “This radical step will help more government employees to achieve a better work-life balance and gain more control over their lives. As we’ve seen with companies such as BT and Asda, where the majority of employees are now working flexibly, this will particularly benefit women, older people and employees with health conditions.”
The manifesto comes after concerns have been expressed that the Conservatives will drastically cut public sector spending if they get into power.
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Remote working finds support
Half of enterprise level businesses think remote working is beneficial, according to a survey released by Interactive Intelligence.
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Fawcett Society organises debate on women and the election

The Fawcett Society is to ask politicians what their policies mean for women voters in a special pre-election debate with the LSE on 27th April.
The What About Women? debate and Q & A with the leading front bench women from each of the main political parties will take place at the Old Theatre at the LSE in London at 8pm on 27th April.
The Fawcett Society says: “In the style of the Leaders’ debate, each candidate will outline what their party’s policies will mean for women and face questions from a 400+ audience made up of leading campaigners, commentators, academics, policy experts and the general public.
Women’s votes will determine the result of this closely fought election and all the parties have mounted a media charm offensive to win their support. But is there any policy substance behind their spin? 
The Leaders’ debates are focussing on  domestic affairs, international affairs and the economy.  Fawcett and the What About Women campaign will be asking candidates what their plans – on everything from the deficit to crime – will mean for women’s lives and women’s equality.”
Parents too busy to see their own parents, says survey
Four in ten adults, many of them busy parents, admit that they do not see their parents as much as they should and one in eight have gone a whole year or more without seeing their parents.
The survey of 3,000 people over the age of 40, commissioned by live-in care agency Christies Care, showed a third claimed the reason they didn’t see their families was because of their busy lifestyles. Long office hours, kids’ homework, after-school activities as well as feeling too tired by the time it’s the weekend emerged as the top reasons to dissuade a visit to elderly parents.
Another reason was parents living far away. Almost a third, however, were worried their parents are becoming isolated due to illness, death of a partner or low income and the survey showed that some grandparents spend nearly six hours a day completely alone. Some 12 per cent only saw their grandchildren once every four months.
Hugh Gathorne-Hardy, Chairman, Christies Care said: ‘’It’s clear many elderly parents and grandparents are being forgotten about as we carry on with our hectic and stressful lives. Too many are seen too little throughout the year and a significant number are left feeling isolated, with little human contact.
‘’It takes effort to take time out and visit relatives, but even regular telephone calls will help them know you care. We’ve found more than a third are currently worried about their parent’s well-being, yet so many are left unchecked and off the radar.’’
The study also quizzed adults on whether they have any future plans in place for looking after their elderly parents. Eight in ten said living at home would be their parent’s preferred choice in old age, rather than residential or nursing homes.
But 73 per cent said their parents had no plans to pay for any care they would need.
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Young women ‘want to marry’  and have first child by 27
Young women think the ideal age to marry is 26 and 27 is the best time to have their first child, according to a survey by More magazine.
The Marriage and Wedding survey of 2,000 women found that 82% of women whose parents had divorced or separated still wanted to get married and 60% thought it was important to be married before having children.
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Tory policy on parent power criticised

The Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to allow parents to set up their own schools has been criticised by The Centre for Market and Public Organisation based at Bristol University.
Professor Simon Burgess, Economics Director of the CMPO, says the policy is modelling on the Swedish ‘free schools’ policy, set up around 20 years ago which allows privately run schools to receive public funding for every pupil they educate on the same terms as state schools. He says: “The enthusiasm for this policy seems misplaced. Contrary to some Conservative pronouncements, research does not suggest this will yield big effects. The best evidence suggests a small positive effect on academic performance early on in school, with the greatest beneficiaries being children from highly educated families. But these gains do not persist: scoares are no higher in the exams at the end of high school.”
He adds that it is also likely that the policy would be restricted to primary schools since parents would be more likely to open primary rather than secondary schools, which are larger and more complex to run.
He says Labour’s proposal of giving parents the right to change the school leadership could provide a direct incentive for school improvement, but warns that the details of how it is done are crucial in order to avoid “a continual churn of head teachers at particular schools, to strengthen the powers of school governors and to avoid small cliques of parents removing headteachers”.
He adds that both Labour and Conservatives plan an expansion in academies, but says there is little evidence yet that these work, adding that it is a policy based “more on faith than on evidence”.
Woman soldier gets £17K compensation 
A woman soldier who was disciplined for missing a parade to care for her sick child has won £17,016 in compensation.
An employment tribunal awarded Tilern DeBique the money after she won a claim for race and sex discrimination. She says she was told that the army was not a place for single parents and that she had been forced to quit her job.

At the employment tribunal, she argued that she was expected to be available for duty “24/7, 365 days a year”. She had also stated that immigration rules meant her half-sister could not come to the UK from St Vincent to help with childcare. The tribunal viewed this as discriminatory and said if an exception could have been made for her, she would have been able to stay in the army. DeBique is now unemployed and the tribunal heard of the psychological impact of her losing her job. 
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