Caring Responsibilities and Work

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons am ar 7 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

What steps the Government are taking to help support women with caring responsibilities to continue working.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

We all know that women take on the bulk of caring responsibilities. The Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024 will come into force on 6 April across England, Wales and Scotland, allowing carers to take a week of unpaid leave from the workplace knowing that their jobs are protected.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

The ministerial team knows that it is an absolute scandal that in all these years of so-called popular Conservative Government we have seen such a bad deal for early years, carers and talented women. Legions of them want to use their talent at work but are stopped by the highest childcare costs in the world.

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

I would respectfully say to the hon. Gentleman that God gave us two ears and a mouth for a reason, and I would encourage him to put his listening ears on to hear about the track record of this Government. We have, for instance, improved payments for carers, introduced groundbreaking legislation to allow flexible working from day one, and legislated for parental leave including shared parental leave and paternity leave. The kinship care strategy was launched in December to provide a funding model for kinship carers. We have gone further than any Government with our plan to improve the lives of carers and value the work that they do.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Women), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Equalities)

That right to flexible working would particularly benefit workers with caring responsibilities, most of whom are women, but unfortunately the UK Government’s response to the results of their consultation on flexible working simply does not go far enough to provide some of the real practical support needed by many people with such responsibilities. Last week Nikki Pound of the TUC told the Women and Equalities Committee that one in three requests for flexible working were denied by employers. What steps are the UK Government taking to give real support to workers with caring responsibilities and ensure that flexible working is a day-one right by default?

Photo of Maria Caulfield Maria Caulfield The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Women)

I am a carer myself, holding down a full-time job, so I am aware of the difficulties involved. As I have said, the Government have passed legislation allowing flexible working from day one, and we have also introduced 18 weeks of leave entitlement for parents. That is on top of the Carer’s Leave Regulations 2024, which will come into force on 6 April. We have gone further than any other Government in introducing those rights for carers.