Report reveals childcare fees have ‘risen faster than wages’

According to a report published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), childcare fees have risen by 52% since 2008, while wages have risen by just 17%.

The TUC described the situation as being ‘even worse’ for lone parents, and stated that childcare costs for single parents working full-time have risen ‘seven times faster’ than earnings.

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In England, average childcare fees have risen from £159 per week in 2008 to £236 per week in 2018 for a child aged under two; and from £149 per week in 2008 to £232 a week in 2018 for a child aged over two.

Despite government support, including free nursery hours for some working parents and the introduction of the Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) initiative, many families in the UK are ‘still being left with huge childcare bills’, according to the TUC.

It has urged the government to supply additional support, including subsidised, affordable childcare ‘as soon as maternity leave finishes’, and more government funding to enable local authorities to provide nurseries and childcare.

TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: ‘Despite government support, families still face eye-watering nursery bills. Britain’s cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on working mums and dads.’

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MPs call for ‘urgent action’ to prevent maternity discrimination

The Women and Equalities Select Committee has called for ‘urgent action’ to protect pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace, after finding evidence for what it calls a ‘shocking’ rise in pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

Since 2005, the number of expectant and new mothers made to leave their jobs has almost doubled to 54,000, a new report by the Committee found.

The report proposes the implementation of a German-style system which would make it more difficult for employers to make women redundant during and after pregnancy.

Committee Chair, Maria Miller MP, said: ‘The economy will suffer unless employers modernise their workplace practices to ensure effective support and protection for expectant and new mums.

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‘The Government’s approach has lacked urgency and bite. It needs to set out a detailed plan outlining the specific actions it will take to tackle this unacceptable level of discrimination. This work must be underpinned by concrete targets and changes to laws and protections to increase compliance by employers to improve women’s lives.’

The Committee’s report urges the Government to publish ‘an ambitious, detailed plan within the next two years, or risk a further rise in pregnant women and mothers being forced out of their work’.

Its recommendations include changes to health and safety practices, preventing discriminatory redundancies and an increase in protection for casual, agency and zero-hours workers.

Business Minister, Margot James MP, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that pregnant women and new mothers are apparently being forced to quit their jobs because of outdated attitudes. Tackling this issue is a key priority of mine and this Government and I would like to thank the Committee for its important work. We will consider its recommendations carefully and respond in due course.’

Grandparents in work to receive shared parental leave and pay

Working grandparents could be permitted to make use of shared parental leave and pay in order to help care for their grandchildren, under new plans.

The plans would form an extension of the current system, which enables parents to share leave and statutory parental pay between them.

This shared leave was introduced in April 2015, allowing working mothers to end their maternity leave early and to share parental leave with their partner instead.

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Under the new extension, grandparents could potentially receive up to 18 transferable weeks of shared leave and families would be able to split statutory shared parental pay.

The option to share leave with the child’s grandparents will provide the possibility for parents to return to work more quickly.

The policy is expected to benefit single mothers who cannot currently choose to share parental leave, but will be able to do so with their child’s grandparents under the new scheme.

Chancellor George Osborne stated that more than half of all mothers rely on grandparents to look after their child when they initially return to work after having a baby.

‘In many families, grandparents play a central role in caring for their grandchildren and helping to keep down the costs of childcare,’ Osborne said.

‘Allowing them instead to share leave with their children will keep thousands more in the workplace, which is good for our economy.’

New shared parental leave plans for 2015

25 Feb 2014

As of 5 April 2015 the regulations for shared parental leave will be changed, in an attempt to make workplaces fairer and give easier access to maternity and paternity pay. The new Children and Families Bill will receive Royal Assent in March this year.

Legal responsibilities for employers will be to ensure that requests by both men and women are treated equally. This includes preventing discrimination against men who seek parental leave, and also discrimination against women during the recruitment process.

In addition, mothers can end their 52 weeks maternity leave after the initial two week recovery period. Working parents can then decide how they wish to share the remaining 50 weeks of leave.

However, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) estimates that one in 172 fathers will request this leave, due to low paternity pay. The current rate is £136 per week, which could cause financial problems for parents. The TUC has requested for the Government to amend the Children and Families Bill, and raise paternity pay to 90% of average fathers’ or partners’ earnings for six weeks.

For more information on Shared Parental Leave go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/shared-parental-leave

A year of shared leave for new parents to start by April 2015

29 Nov 2013

The Government has proposed to introduce shared leave for parents after the birth of their child.

Current maternity leave is 52 weeks, but from April it will be possible to split this leave – excluding the first two weeks of the mother’s recovery – between parents. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg claims that this set up will give mothers the chance to continue their careers and allow fathers to be ‘more hands-on parents’. Anybody deciding to take the total annual leave of six months will retain their legal rights to return to their job.

However the Institute of Directors have labelled these new rights as a ‘nightmare’ that would ‘heap yet more burdens on struggling employers.’ Alexander Ehmann, deputy director of policy said that ‘The proposed system is considerably more complex and unwieldy than the current laws and employers will – once again – have to absorb the cost of adapting and implementing this new system.’

In the hope of dispelling fears for small businesses, employers will have to agree the proposed pattern of time off before an agreement is made and they continue to retain the right to demand it be taken in one continuous block.

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary said that the step was ‘welcome’ but would be unaffordable ‘unless it is backed up with better pay’.