The government should boost child benefit and introduce compulsory pay audits in all companies to ensure women are able to raise families, Harriet Harman, the minister for justice, urged yesterday.
Harman said women were delaying motherhood and having fewer children because of the pressures of work, the Guardian reports.
Speaking at a Unison meeting at the TUC conference in Brighton, the minister, who is considering standing for Labour’s deputy leadership, said that women were feeling torn between work and home.
“This is a particular problem for women who are in low-paid, low-status jobs. If you’re the boss or in senior management, you have choices. You don’t if you’re in a cleaning job or on a production line,” she said.
“Many women feel they have to put off having their first baby because they can’t afford it and they’ll lose out at work… [They] worry because physically, it doesn’t get any easier to have your babies when you’re older.”
Harman said many women were deterred from having larger families because of financial and career constraints. The government should consider paying the same child benefit for subsequent children as for the first, she said.
“It’s all right if you’re well off and can afford the time off work and the cost of more than one child in a nursery or afterschool club – but many families just can’t.”
Harman also said the government should make tackling the pay gap a priority to allow fathers to play a greater role in childcare.
“We should be looking at a target for ending unequal pay, looking at the role the minimum wage can play in tackling unequal pay, and compulsory pay audits in the private as well as public sector,” she said.