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Shared parental leave, tax free childcare and workplace equality

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There can be no denying that society has very much moved on from the days when women were expected to stay at home raising the children and cooking the dinners. In many households parental responsibilities are more divided, with men often taking a more active role than that afforded by the 1950s’ stereotype.

Shared parental leave and tax free childcare

But for some – it’s still not enough. The issue has been strongly brought to the fore front this week by junior equalities minister Jo Swinson MP who attacked what she referred to as society’s ‘obsession with women’s roles as mothers’ and a ‘Call the Midwife’ view of parenting.

The Lib Dem was speaking at an event about what women voters want. She said the Lib Dems are driving a revolution by pushing for shared parental leave for up to a year and tax-free childcare for working parents.

Current system ‘outdated and inflexible’

She said: “The very idea of men caring for small children or mothers forging successful careers is anathema to many Tories, who’d apparently rather have a Call the Midwife version of parenting. At least we recognise that women might want both a fulfilling job and family life.

“With a paltry two weeks of paternity leave and popular culture that brands dads as hapless and bumbling, men are written out of the family script with worrying regularity.”

Miss Swinson has also been reported as saying: “We have shown in Government that we are not afraid to challenge the status quo and old fashioned stereotypes about how women should live their lives. For far too long the prevailing view has been that men should go off to work and women should stay home as primary carers of children. The system of parental leave has long reflected this; out-dated and inflexible’.”

Equality in the workplace

The party has driven through reforms which will see parents able to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave, in whatever way best suits them, for any babies due from April 5th 2015. This could mean families spending more time together in the beginning, or dads taking extra leave later on when mums return to work. If caring responsibilities are more equal, Miss Swinson believes more equality in the workplace will follow.

Response

But her views are not shared by everyone. In response to her speech, party member Karen Wilkinson said there should instead be a more level playing field for full-time parents who pay the price in lost income.

She said: “Not only do stay-at-home parents care for their children, but they often provide the glue that makes a neighbourhood a community and undertake much voluntary work supporting working parents and older people. For this they pay a very heavy price in lost income, lower self-esteem and significantly reduced opportunities for future employment and pensions. So can we please consider policies to level the playing field, not just insist on pushing people back into work?”

 

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