The Labour Party today set out our vision and priorities for gender equality, A Better Future for Women, ahead of the general election.
As a party, we have long championed reforms which ensure that women can achieve their full potential and have the freedom to make choices about their lives. Our record in government is testament to this: from Equal Pay in the 1970s to the Equality Act in 2010, Labour has led the way on women’s rights.
We will build on this record by addressing the urgent need for more secure and better paid jobs and higher living standards. Women dominate in low pay sectors and more women than ever are precariously employed and on exploitative zero hours contracts. Other key priorities include tackling violence against women and girls and introducing compulsory sex and relationships education.
The manifesto also includes a pledge to strengthen maternity discrimination legislation. As many as 60,000 women are forced out of their job per year as a result of maternity discrimination. As I have written recently, there is a pressing need for stronger maternity legislation at both the UK and the EU levels.
A summary of Labour’s vision for women:
1. We have a plan to tackle the low pay that affects women most. One in four women are now paid below a Living Wage and sixty per cent of the jobs created for women since 2010 have been in low paid sectors. Labour will increase the National Minimum Wage to more than £8 an hour before October 2019 and promote the Living Wage with tax rebates for firms who sign up in the first year of a Labour government.
2. We will give parents more support with childcare. Childcare costs have risen by over 30 per cent since 2010, while childcare support through tax credits has been slashed. We’ll do more to support parents, extending free childcare from 15 to 25 hours a week for working parents of three and four-year-olds, guaranteeing access for parents of primary-age children to 8am-6pm wraparound childcare through primary schools. We’ll protect the Sure Start budget and open up an additional 50,000 childcare places.
3. We will help do more to ensure support for families reflects the realities of modern family life. Parents are increasingly relying on other family members to help them juggle work and childcare — particularly grandparents — with more than half of mothers relying on grandparents when they go back to work. So we’ll do more to support families, consulting on allowing parents to transfer some of their unpaid leave to grandparents who want to help care for their grandchildren.
4. We will do more to help families spend more time with a new baby. Labour will double paid paternity leave from two to four weeks, and increase pay to the equivalent of a full week’s work at the National Minimum Wage so that more families can take up their entitlements.
5. Violence against women and girls is never acceptable, so Labour will put tackling it at the heart of government. We will appoint a new commissioner to enforce national standards on tackling domestic and sexual abuse, strengthen the law and provide more stable central funding for women’s refuges and Rape Crisis Centres. And we’ll work to prevent violence, introducing age appropriate compulsory sex and relationship education in schools.
6. We will work for equality in our public life. Labour is proud to have the largest number of women standing for Parliament of any party. We will continue to use all women shortlists for Westminster parliamentary selections, and set a goal for fifty per cent of ministerial appointments to public boards to be women.