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5 ways the government can help mums this Mother's Day

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This Mother’s Day mums across the country will wake up to breakfast in bed and bouquets of flowers from their little ones. But although the recognition from family members is appreciated, the fact is many working mums are being pushed to the brink.

Juggling work with family life is not easy. And working mums are buckling under the strain of a combination of caring responsibilities and the added pressures of wages and bills crisis.

Last week the Chancellor delivered his spring statement – setting out spending commitments for the next six months. But there was nothing in the Chancellor’s mini-budget to support working mums, despite the fact that recent TUC research found that one in three parents of pre-school age children spend more than a third of their pay on childcare – a staggering amount when households across the country are struggling to cover soaring energy bills.

And there are other challenges facing women in the labour market. Nearly two in five (38%) key workers are paid less than £10 an hour, and most of them are women. Around 2.5 million women key workers earn under £10 an hour.  

One in 10 (1.4 million) women workers earn too little to get any sick pay. And TUC research shows that BME women are twice as likely to be on a zero hours contract than their white male counterparts.   

Mums took on the lion’s share of caring responsibilities during the pandemic when schools closed. Now they’re more likely to have to take time off work to care for their children when they get Covid-19. Many are being forced to sacrifice hours and pay to do so. 

And too many women are stuck in low-paid, insecure jobs with few rights and no sick pay. They deserve so much more. 

5 ways the government can help mums this Mothers Day

This Mother’s Day, the TUC wants the government to introduce five key measures to help mums stay in work and support their families: 

  • Increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour
  • Increase statutory sick pay to at least the level of the real Living Wage, for everyone in work.
  • Bring in an entitlement to 10 days parental leave per year for each child, on full pay. Currently parents have no legal right to paid leave to look after their children. 
  • Ban zero hours contracts.
  • Introduce a right to genuine flexible work, from the first day in a job. Flexible working includes having predictable or set hours, working from home, job-sharing, working compressed hours and term-time only working. 

Long-term reforms 

But ministers cannot stop there. The TUC says the gender pay gap opens when women become mothers, which then feeds into the gender pensions gap later in life.  

Government must look at fundamental reforms to equalise care between men and women. A striking omission from the spring statement was the lack of any mention of childcare.

Without access to affordable childcare many families will be forced into further hardship and many mums will be forced out of the labour market.

​And the Governments evaluation of shared parental leave is long overdue.

The TUC says ministers must:  

  • Tackle the gender pay and pensions gap. Government should require all employers to publish an action plan alongside their pay gap reporting, setting out the steps they will take to close their gender pay gaps.
  • Invest in the childcare sector and ensure everyone has access to good quality and affordable childcare and childcare workers are paid a living wage. TUC research found that one in three parents of pre-school age children spend more than a third of their pay on childcare. TUC research also found that over 170,000 childcare workers would benefit from a minimum wage increase to £10 per hour. 
  • Overhaul Shared Parental leave (SPL). Around only 1 per cent of eligible families take up shared parental leave. We need an individual right to SPL for both parents on a use it or lose it basis and paid at real living wage rate. 

Women have fought hard for their rights and progression in the world of work, but more than a decade of austerity, compounded by the pandemic and now the wages and bills crisis risks turning the clock back on progress towards women's equality at work and in wider society. If the government is serious about women's equality then it must get serious about its policy interventions.

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