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Shared Parental Leave

Volume 651: debated on Thursday 20 December 2018

6. What steps the Government are taking to promote the take-up of shared parental leave to help tackle the gender pay gap. (908340)

Earlier this year, we ran a £1.5 million campaign to promote awareness and the take-up of shared parental leave and pay. We are currently evaluating the scheme, looking at take-up and the barriers to it and at how the scheme is being used in practice. We expect to publish our findings next summer.

I thank the Minister for the work that is already being done. Does she agree that it is important to recognise, as part of that work, that cultural change is required to increase the take-up of shared parental leave? That will include raising awareness, challenging stereotypes and ensuring that we, as community leaders, have a role and are engaged with it.

Given that 33% of people say that mothers of pre-school children should stay at home and only 7% say that they should be in full-time work, I have to agree with my hon. Friend. Cultural change will not happen overnight, but shared parental leave is an important step, and we are considering further activity to raise awareness, promote take-up and make the scheme easier for parents to access.

Although I welcome the Government’s efforts to reduce the gender pay gap, they pledged in 2017 to tackle racial pay disparities. In the same year, Baroness McGregor-Smith found that greater workplace diversity could boost Britain’s economy by £24 billion a year. When do the Government plan to act on their pledge? Our economy could certainly do with an extra £24 billion, given the Brexit shambles that they have created.

We backed the McGregor-Smith review of racial issues in the workplace. We wanted businesses to publish their data on ethnicity and pay voluntarily, but the Prime Minister announced in October that, rather than waiting for them to do so, we would take action. A consultation is in progress and will end on 11 January, and we will consider then how best to implement its recommendations.

Too often, women face discrimination at work when they are pregnant or on maternity leave, or when they return to work. Although that is illegal, it seems that the law is not working. What steps are the Government taking to end maternity discrimination?

My hon. Friend has raised a particularly important point. We want to do whatever we can to tackle such discrimination. We are currently reviewing the redundancy protections for pregnant women and new mothers, and we hope to take further steps early next year. On Monday, we launched the good work plan, under which employees will receive a written statement of their entitlements in the workplace on their first day at work and which will potentially reduce the incidence of discrimination. Transparency is what we are aiming for, and we will do as much as we can to ensure that those people are protected.