The Government has announced an extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme...read more
The Women’s Equality Party has published its first policies and campaigns today which cover childcare, equal parenting, discrimination at work and carers.
The campaign document calls for equal pay for equal work. The party will require companies with more than 250 employees to publish a comprehensive annual report covering the numbers of women and men – broken down by ethnicity and disability – at different levels in the company, their pay, their employment status and their working hours. It will also require data on retention during and after parental leave to be published.
Within three years it will extend this requirement to businesses with more than 50 employees and all those securing government contracts at any level. It will also ask HM Revenue and Customs to gather anonymous data through PAYE and Self-Assessment forms on gender, age, ethnicity, disability status, industry and working hours. It wants to see this information published to allow researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between gender, race, age, disability status and pay.
On discrimination, the party pledges to remove barriers to justice for those who have suffered workplace discrimination by lowering the fee for issuing an employment claim from the current £250 to £50 and removing the hearing fee of £950 altogether; fee remissions for those on low incomes will remain in place. It says it will restore the power of employment tribunals to advise employers who have been proven to discriminate on their broad employment processes. And in recognition of the challenge of undertaking legal proceedings with a new baby to care for, it will give new parents a longer grace period of nine months – rather than the current three months – for cases involving maternity discrimination or parental leave. The party also calls for the restoration of the provisions in the 2010 Equality Act to permit dual discrimination claims.
On childcare, the Women’s Equality Party says Government-funded childcare should be available for all children from the end of paid parental leave at nine months. It says the first 15 hours a week – where the educational benefits of childcare for children are clearest – should be free, with the rest payable at £1 an hour by parents, as recommended by the Resolution Foundation’s Commission on Living Standards.
It wants to see a voucher alternative of equivalent value for parents who work non-traditional hours and need more flexible childcare and says pre- and after-school clubs should be available on school premises from 8am to 6pm. The party says it will incentivise companies to put in place on-site childcare by exempting on-site childcare facilities from business rates, paid for by a small uplift in the rate for large premises.
On pensions, it wants to see a single rate of pension tax relief and for older working women, it is calling for an urgent consultation between government, employers and employees on strategies to help those with caregiving responsibilities balance these with working life. This would include consideration of longer term career breaks, similar to maternity leave, for those with caring responsibilities. It wants to see detailed research into the experience of working women during the menopause, reducing stigma and spreading awareness among employers.
On equal parenting, it calls for a fully equal system of parental leave which “would guarantee both parents (including same-sex couples and adoptive parents) six weeks away from work on 90% of pay, with an additional 10 months of leave at statutory pay to be shared between the parents”. It says single parents should be able to nominate a second caregiver of their choice for this entitlement, and fathers’ or same sex partners’ entitlements should not be reliant on whether a mother is working or not.
It says it wants to see state-funded Statutory Maternity Pay, including the six weeks’ entitlement at 90% of pay, available to all working mothers. On carers, it would like to see a review of leave systems of all kinds to understand who takes what and for how long, and challenge any inequalities. It adds that it will prioritise the extension of non-transferable paternity leave, paid at a statutory rate, to six weeks as a first step.
On flexible working it will encourage returner programmes and, starting with all those on the government’s own Universal Jobmatch platform and companies with 250 or more employees, it will require job adverts to state what forms of flexible working a post is suitable for by means of a checklist so that “instead of opting in to job sharing, home working or flexible hours they will have to find a business reason for opting out. The party will require Local Enterprise Partnerships to support small businesses in their area with the initial costs of investing in remote working and will permit those who apply for flexible working to submit a claim for unreasonable refusal of a request and for unreasonable refusal to offer a trial period – with compensation where this is proven to have taken place.
The Women’s Equality also has policies promoting dads’ right to paid leave to attend ante-natal scans with their partner, a requirement that baby-changing facilities be equally available to all genders in all public buildings and will review all government publications and services – and material handed out in public premises – “to ensure they promote a narrative that raising children is a whole family responsibility however families are formed”.
The party also outlined policies on education – including more male role models in schools and a gender audit of the curriculum – carers, violence against women and media representation of women. It says: “When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits. Gender equality means better politics, a more vibrant economy, a workforce that draws on the talents of the whole population and a society at ease with itself. The Women’s Equality Party is working towards such a society.”