Women and Work APPG launches its first annual report: Women Returners

A cross party group of MPs yesterday called on the Government and employers across the country to do more to help women enter and re-enter the workforce.

At a Parliamentary reception attended by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Caroline Dinenage MP, members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women and Work outlined the findings of their year-long inquiry into ‘women returners’

Speaking at the launch, co-chair of the APPG, Conservative MP Flick Drummond MP said:

“If we want to be a happier and more successful county, 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.

“I would like to see a culture where we recognise that caring responsibilities have a positive impact on our ability to ‘do the job’ and that this is understood and valued by employers across the country”.

Women Returners makes a series of recommendations aimed at supporting women from the moment they take a career break, for example because of motherhood and caring responsibilities, to how best to support them to return to the workplace, for example through flexible working, self-employment and enterprise, and apprenticeships.

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. 

“This report and its recommendations begin a conversation about the importance of getting women working, and we will continue to work with Government, the private and public sectors, and most importantly women themselves to make sure that everyone is able to make a full contribution to our economy”.

The report’s main recommendations are as follows:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Government to work across all departments, in consultation with disabled user groups, to map and better understand what is needed to help women with disabilities to secure employment and progress within the workplace.
  4. 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.
  5. Every workplace with 250 or more employees should have a carers policy detailing organisational support available for those with caring responsibilities.
  6. Employers with 250 or more employees should consider putting in place paid returner programmes or returnships with guaranteed training, advice, and support.
  7. Government to take further steps to diversify the apprenticeships sector by specifying that a percentage of apprenticeships should be part-time or flexible.
  8. Employers should promote best practice through a flexible working kitemark with official accreditation and assessment to increase flexible working visibility and actively encourage the uptake of flexible working.
  9. Schools should ensure that information about self-employment and entrepreneurships are on the curriculum at secondary and sixth form level.

The APPG’s inquiry, which was launched by Flick Drummond MP and Jess Phillips MP at the beginning of 2016, has heard from a huge range of organisations and individuals, both first-hand and through written evidence, about the difficulties that women regularly experience when returning to work after a break of more than six months. Evidence was received from a range of organisations, including The Return Hub, Young Women’s Trust, 5Live, Mumsnet and CIPD.

The Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group exists to promote discussion around women and work. Supported by Centrica, the Shaw Trust, IPSE and RBS, the APPG has an active programme of meetings with regular contributions from industry experts.

You can read the full report here.

Lora Shopova