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Covid-19: Female Employment

Volume 691: debated on Wednesday 24 March 2021

The latest Office for National Statistics official statistics show the female employment rate at 71.8% at the end of January 2021. The Government recognise that times are hard for many women and men, which is why we have extended the furlough scheme until September, alongside new measures in our plan for jobs, such as our £2 billion kickstart scheme and the restart programme, which launches this summer.

Covid forced short-term modifications to working practices, which demonstrate that change is possible, but proactive steps are needed to secure long-term improvements in flexible working to support the work and caring responsibilities of women in particular. Does the Minister agree that flexibility should be available from day one of a new job rather than being a possibility six months in, will she ensure that the forthcoming employment Bill provides for that, and will she confirm that that Bill will be in the Queen’s Speech?

The hon. Lady raises something really important. At the Department for Work and Pensions we have been incredibly flexible with our team, and they have been incredibly flexible as a result, so I absolutely agree that flexibility is really important and will be keenly supporting changes to make sure that more women are part of the workforce. It is pleasing that, compared with men’s, the fall in women’s employment has been better through the covid pandemic. As the UK Government, we want to do as much as we can to support women to progress and thrive in the workplace or, indeed, working at home more flexibly.