News | Published November 08 2019

Labour pledge to extend maternity leave ahead of general election

Labour’s latest election pledge is to extend statutory maternity pay from nine months to 12 months should the party win December’s general election.

The party has also said it would like to see larger employers introduce menopause workplace policies in a restructure of women’s working rights, as well as setting up a new Workers’ Protection Agency watchdog which will penalise firms who fail to report gender pay gaps and take necessary measures to close them.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics revealed that the gender pay gap among full-time workers increased to 8.9 per cent in the year to April 2019, a 0.3 per cent increase on the same period in 2018. 

The CBI has approved of an extension to the statutory maternity pay window, with its director of people and skills policy Matthew Percival having said that the next government "should work with business to develop policies that tackle gender inequality in ways that work for everyone”.

Companies, charities and public sector departments which employ 250 employees or more are obliged to publish their gender pay gap figures by law, but Labour says its new watchdog will “enforce compliance”. 

The party also wants to amend the feedback regulations, so that by 2020 businesses employing over 50 people will be required to report their gender pay gap figures.Its new “menopause policy” includes requiring firms to implement training for line managers to raise awareness of the menopause, as well as providing flexible working arrangements for affected women and carrying out risk assessments.

Labour has also pledged to give workers the right to choose suitable working hours from their first day at work, as well as taking measures to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace and protect workers from discrimination.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said that her party are finally doing something about the "years of concerns" surrounding the treatment of women at work.

Butler said: “Audits aren’t enough; we know there’s a problem that needs fixing. "Labour will deliver a workplace revolution to bring about a step-change in how women are treated at work. We'll boost pay, increase flexibility, and strengthen protections against harassment and discrimination.”

However, business secretary Andrea Leadsom has criticised Labour’s plans, labelling them a “reckless” initiative which would “cripple businesses across the country.”

Leadsom said: "Only the Conservatives will get Brexit done so we can all move on to focus on people's priorities like making the UK the best place to work and run a business with responsible reforms to increase flexible working, get more women back into work and ensure equality of opportunity regardless of gender, age, race or class.”

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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
November 08 2019

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