Thank you to all those who contacted me about support for working mums.
The childcare system is not working when childcare costs are so high that mothers are having to leave work. I agree that proposals to increase the number of two-year-olds a member of staff can look after in childcare is not the solution. Not only does this risk reducing the quality of care without lowering fees, but it also fails to address issues with availability, standards and staffing.
There must be a complete transformation in how childcare is delivered from the end of parental leave to the start of secondary school. I support calls for councils to be enabled to open more state nurseries and for breakfast clubs to be introduced in every primary school to help parents work.
Flexible working also makes a huge difference, which is why I support calls for it to be a default right for all workers from day one. I support the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill, which my colleague Yasmin Qureshi MP brought forward in June 2022. Among other measures, it would remove the requirement for employees to explain what effect their flexible working request would have on the employer.
The Government has said it will introduce additional legislation to this to make the right to request flexible working a day one right for all workers, which I welcome. Yet, these measures are not expected to come into effect until 2024 and I am disappointed Ministers have up to now repeatedly failed to deliver on their commitment to promote flexible working.
I believe the Government will need to go further to ensure this is accompanied by a change of culture, making sure employers really welcome flexible working in their workplace and share information about it in job adverts, interviews and inductions.
Parents and families deserve better, which is why I also support calls for a review of shared parental leave and an extension to maternity and paternity leave. The Government ran a consultation on parental leave and pay in 2019, but disappointingly, it has still not published its response. Its Employment Bill, which was promised over three years ago, has yet to be introduced too.