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Economic Recovery: Employment for Women

Volume 687: debated on Wednesday 13 January 2021

What steps the Government have taken to ensure the adequacy of employment opportunities for women during the economic recovery from the covid-19 outbreak. (910495)

The Government have taken significant steps to support employment opportunities for women, starting with protecting jobs. The coronavirus job retention scheme has supported 4.5 million jobs done by women, the self-employed income support scheme has issued grants to 1.4 million women, and we are providing an extra £4.6 billion to support sectors required to close during the lockdown, which predominantly employ women.

Female employment is highest in the services sector and has been hit particularly hard by redundancies in hospitality, retail and leisure. The new deal announced by the Prime Minister in June focused on house building, road building and infrastructure—all vital sectors, but heavily geared towards male employment. Can my hon. Friend confirm whether there are equivalent plans to stimulate female employment in the months ahead, and will he meet me to discuss this?

I thank my hon. Friend for what she is doing to encourage such employment. We are committed to having a fair recovery for all. During the crisis we have rolled out unprecedented levels of support to protect jobs for both women and men. Yes, of course I would be happy to meet her to discuss what more we can do to stimulate employment, including female employment, in the months ahead.

Research by the Trades Union Congress shows that about 90% of mothers have taken on more childcare responsibilities since the pandemic began, with 43% having to balance childcare with working from home. This is a particular pressure for single-parent households, the majority of which, research shows, are headed by women. With women at greater risk of redundancy and disproportionately employed in sectors hardest hit by shutdowns, will the Minister commit to creating a legal, enforceable and immediate right for parents to request paid, flexible furlough?

Certainly furlough is available for women and, indeed, men who have childcare responsibilities. It is the responsibility of the employer whether to give that, but if women feel unduly disadvantaged, they can approach ACAS.