UK minister takes government to court over sexist Budget

October 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

Just a quick note to follow up on my post on the spending cuts in Britain impacting most dramatically on women. The Fawcett Society and MP Yvette Cooper are taking the government to court in the country’s first ever legal action taken against a budget.

Yvette Cooper

The move sends a clear and powerful message on a desperate situation – Cooper says she has calculated that women will burden 72% of the cuts. David Cameron’s government already has a very poor record on women – there are only four women in a 23-strong cabinet – compare this to Spain where women make up 53% of the cabinet, Sweden where women form 50% and 38% in Germany, according to the Centre for Women and Democracy. In a further example of a very narrowly foccused cabinet, Lady Warsi is the only ethnic minority cabinet member and 69% of the Cabinet went to Oxbridge universities.

It is shaming that a nation which portrays itself as a centre of opportunity, fairness and diversity can put forward such a poorly representative government, and such a unfairly biased budget.

It will be interesting to see how far this legal action goes to makes the government rethink their policies – although as Chancellor George Osborne admitted yesterday to the BBC, they “don’t have a Plan B”.

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European maternity laws to be blocked by UK

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

A row is brewing in Europe this week – nothing new in that! Except this row could be one of the most important decisions the European Parliament ever makes.

European Union flag

Set to vote this week on increasing maternity leave from 14 to 20 weeks, the UK is planning to vote against the legislation, which would then block the laws being passed.

The British Conservative government is, predictably, concerned about alienating big business. This move could cost British businesses more than £2.5bn a year.

Woe betide any Tory that suggests that these costs are a small price to pay for a more mature approach to childcare.

So many problems with family life and gender relations across the UK are caused by biased childcare policies. The very talk of “maternity leave” places childcare, and issues to do with children firmly with women.  Plus a policy such as this, however well meaning, will undoubtedly make some employers think twice about employing young women of – and I hate this phrase so forgive me – “child bearing age”.

I appreciate that paternity leave (and maternity leave for that matter) in Europe is already bounds ahead many countries in the world – but isn’t it time to build on that success? Instead of just piling more time onto existing maternity leave, with an unreasonable cost on business, why doesn’t the EU instead make a commitment to allow a certain amount of allocated paternal leave, to be divided between mother and father as seen fit within that family.

Women in the UK currently get 12 months off, with the first six weeks on 90% pay, then 33 weeks on just under £125 a week of statutory maternity pay from the state.  

This site is a brilliant tool for comparing which countries offer what in terms of maternity leave – with Sweden leading the way with 450 days paid parental leave; 360 days at 75%, and 90 days flat rate

A flexible paternity-maternity leave approach like this makes the most sense for families and would have wide-reaching implications for women, making it less likely they would have to face a decision between putting their career on the backburner for a few years or have a family.

It’s time the state stopped putting business ahead of the welfare of its citizens.

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