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Employment: Women Returnees

Volume 611: debated on Thursday 26 May 2016

Women returnees often have large amounts of skills and experience that offer great value to our workforce. We have invested in up-front personalised jobcentre support and will extend it to parents of children aged three or four from April 2017. Our wider package of reforms includes the new national living wage, more affordable childcare and flexible working, which will all further support women to make the transition back into work.

Single parents, the majority of whom we know are women, will be hit hardest by the Government’s cuts to work allowances. Does the Minister agree that those cuts will damage financial incentives for low-income women, acting as a barrier to returning to work?

The national living wage will have an impact for women more than anyone. It will make such a massive difference to women, and to single mothers in particular. The Government have getting women back into work in mind in a lot of what we are doing, which is why we are seeing more women in the workplace than ever before.

Will the Minister consider allowing flexible working for women returning to work after having a child from the outset, as a default, rather than them having to wait six months before they can ask for that privilege?

We have a package of measures for women who are returning to work: affordable and flexible childcare, flexible working—up to 20 million people in the UK can now apply for that—and shared parental leave. That package really supports women who want to return to work.

As the Minister will know, many women who wish to go back to work find that they are essentially earning wages to pay for childcare. With that in mind, what are the Government doing on part-time and flexible hours for those women who want to go back to work but have been discriminated against because of their need or desire for more flexible working?

I was one of those women—under the Labour Government, I was literally working to pay for my childcare. I am so proud that this Government have done more than any other to make childcare affordable and flexible; that is why parents with children aged three to four will be able to access up to 30 hours of childcare.

Order. We will get to the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) in due course. He need fear not.

While this Government have cut workers’ rights, attacked trade unions’ ability to organise and legislated to block women’s access to justice, the EU has protected maternity rights, strengthened paternity rights and upheld our fundamental rights. Does the Minister agree that EU membership will protect rights for women returning to employment?

I do not agree that this Government have undermined women’s rights, but I agree that the EU has done an enormous amount to protect them.