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Female Employment

Volume 661: debated on Wednesday 12 June 2019

The female employment rate of 72% is a record high. The industrial strategy is transforming our economy, ensuring that everyone can access, and progress at, work. We have a range of parental and other leave entitlements, and we are working with businesses to promote flexible working. We will invest £3.5 billion in early education this year, making childcare more accessible.

We have record numbers of women in work, but more than 50,000 women a year feel they have no choice but to leave their jobs simply because they are pregnant. Will the Minister look carefully at my ten-minute rule Bill, which is a way to try to provide proper protection for pregnant women, so more of them can stay on in work when they are pregnant and continue to work when they have young children?

I commend my right hon. Friend for her passion, and for her work as Chair of the Select Committee and her ten-minute rule Bill. As she will know, we recently conducted a consultation on maternity and pregnancy discrimination in the workplace, which finished at the beginning of April. We are currently reviewing more than 600 responses, and we hope to publish the results as soon as possible.

11. I am very keen on women—[Laughter]—in good jobs, because I have a wife, three daughters and five granddaughters, but may I urge the Minister to pay more attention to getting women into management training? Women indisputably make better managers than men, so let us have more of them training as managers in order to reach the top levels of management in our country. (911304)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for highlighting that issue. I am proud to be a Minister sitting on the Front Bench among many other females: that just shows that women can do it. One of our priorities has been getting women on boards, and we are on track to reach our target of 33%, but it is crucial that we feed into the pipeline and get women into those executive positions. Hopefully, some of us in the House will be good models for them.

The huge success of the Conservative approach to apprenticeships has enabled many women to secure well-paid jobs in manufacturing. Will my hon. Friend join me in commending the work of companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, which trains equal numbers of men and women as engineering apprentices, despite the challenges that they face?

I strongly commend the work of organisations such as JLR. In my constituency, BAE Systems has high-level apprenticeships for women engineers, which is great. We need more women in higher executive roles, and an apprenticeship system is one of the great vehicles that we can use to achieve that.

As was pointed out by the right hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mrs Miller), 54,000 women lose their jobs each year because of maternity discrimination. The Women and Equalities Committee has long recommended an increase in the employment tribunal time limit for maternity discrimination claims from three to six months to break down some of the barriers. Why have the Government not implemented that?

The hon. Lady will know that the consultation, which finished in April, dealt with that very issue. However, we also sought views on the position of parents who have been on adoption leave or shared parental leave and are returning to work. As I have said, we are looking through the 600 responses to the consultation and are keen to publish the results as soon as possible. Let me emphasise, however, that the law is clear: discrimination against pregnant women coming back from maternity leave is unlawful.