Government U-turn on flexible working will undermine child poverty pledge

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date: 10 March 2009

embargo: 00.01hrs Wednesday 11 March 2009

Delaying the extension of flexible working rights and maternity pay will undermine Government commitments to close the gender pay gap and end child poverty, the TUC warns as it opens the annual TUC Women's conference in Scarborough today (Wednesday).

The TUC is concerned at reports that the Government is considering delaying new legislation including:

  • the extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of children up to 16 years old in April 2009;
  • an increase in statutory maternity pay from nine to twelve months in April 2010; and,
  • allowing mothers to transfer the second six months of their maternity leave to their partners from April 2010.

The TUC believes that family-friendly legislation has helped reduce pay inequalities by enabling more mothers to work and continue their careers. The full-time gender pay gap has been reduced from 20.7 per cent in 1997 to 17.1 per cent in 2008 (although it did rise by 0.1 percentage points last year).

Despite this progress, the UK still has a 'motherhood penalty' - mothers pay an eight per cent wage penalty for having one child, 24 per cent for two and 31 per cent if they have three children.

A report to the TUC Women's Conference Time to End Women's Poverty shows that women are twice as likely to earn less than £100 a week than men (30 per compared to 14 per cent). As half of all children living in poverty live in households where at least one parent works, the report says that tackling women's low pay must be at the heart of the Government's pledge to end child poverty by 2020.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'The Government deserves credit for introducing family-friendly policies that have helped close the gender pay gap and bring hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

'The right to request flexible working has been taken up by millions of working parents. The Government would be foolish to throw away all this momentum and electoral support just to satisfy a few business lobbyists who never agreed with it in the first place.

'Some say that businesses cannot afford family-friendly policies. But we've heard this argument before and it's always proven to be false. The right to request can't be that costly if nearly nine in ten employers claim to operate flexible working practises. Family-friendly legislation enables women to continue their careers after having kids. Our economy needs their skills more than ever to get through the recession.

'If the Government is serious about closing the pay gap and ending child poverty it must end these U-turn rumours and re-commit to extending family-friendly legislation in April 2010.'

NOTES TO EDITORS:

- The TUC report Time to End Women's Poverty can be downloaded from www.tuc.org.uk/extras/womenspoverty.pdf

- According to a survey by the Institute of Directors in June 2008, 86 per cent of its members operated flexible working practices.

- All TUC press releases can be found at www.tuc.org.uk

- Register for the TUC's press extranet: a service exclusive to journalists wanting to access pre-embargo releases and reports from the TUC. Visit www.tuc.org.uk/pressextranet

Contacts:

Media enquiries:
Liz Chinchen T: 020 7467 1248 M: 07778 158175 E: media@tuc.org.uk
Rob Holdsworth T: 020 7467 1372 M: 07717 531150 E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Elly Brenchley T: 020 7467 1337 M: 07900 910624 E: ebrenchley@tuc.org.uk

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