MPs have called on the government and big corporates to introduce returner programmes to help women re-enter the workforce after taking a career break.
The All Party Parliamentary Group has made recommendations concerning childcare, shared parental leave and self-employed mothers, with the aim of supporting women from the moment they take a career break.
It comes after a year-long inquiry into women returners, and the best way to support them to return to work.
Co-chair of the APPG, Conservative MP Flick Drummond MP said: “If we want to be a happier and more successful country, we must appreciate that some people take time out of the workplace for either caring responsibilities or to pursue other interests.
“But it is unacceptable that taking often unavoidable time out usually means forfeiting future earnings and economic success. For example, on average, women earn more than men in their twenties, but when they turn 30 men begin to significantly outstrip their female counterparts.
The report main recommendations are:
- Equalise Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Shared Parental Leave Pay so that couples are not financially penalised if they choose to take up Shared Parental Leave.
- Government to enable mothers who are self-employed to claim a form of ‘Statutory Maternity Pay’ and re-examine how the self-employed are treated for maternity and paternity related benefits.
- Government to work across all departments, in consultation with disabled user groups, to help women with disabilities secure employment and progress in the workplace.
- Government to consider offering more flexible, targeted support to a smaller number of parents for whom free childcare is most likely to make the biggest difference.
- Every workplace with 250 or more employees should have a carer’s policy detailing organisational support available.
- Employers with 250 or more employees should consider putting in place paid returner programmes or returnships with guaranteed training, advice, and support.
- Government to take further steps to diversify the apprenticeships sector by specifying that a percentage should be part-time or flexible.
- Employers should launch a flexible working kitemark with official accreditation and assessment.
- Schools should ensure that information about self-employment and entrepreneurship are on the curriculum at secondary and sixth form level.
The APPG’s inquiry heard from a number of organisations and individuals, including Mumsnet and CIPD, about the difficulties that women regularly experience when returning to work after a break of more than six months.
Labour co-chair, Jess Phillips MP added: “Improving women’s labour market participation is not just important for well-rehearsed social reasons, it matters to our economy.
“It is unsurprising that some of the best examples of schemes to support and encourage women back into work came from the private sector where the business case of recruiting and keeping the best talent is understood.”