The government has called on employers to offer more part-time employment opportunities to help working families.
Work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper said employers advertising full-time job vacancies through Jobcentre Plus should be encouraged to open those positions up to job sharers and part-time workers.
The Observer reported that the government was also thought to be considering extending flexible working laws to enable women to ask future – not just current – employers if it would they can work flexible hours.
But sources close to business secretary Peter Mandelson said the department had “no plans” to change the laws.
Cooper told the Observer that more “good quality part-time jobs” were needed, both for lone parents expected to seek work under the government’s planned welfare reforms and more broadly for many other working parents.
Cooper revealed that a national database of part-time jobs is to be set up, to help working mothers and those returning from career breaks.
A taskforce, chaired by Emma Stewart of Women Like Us, will also be created to consider how to boost part-time jobs.
A White Paper on work is expected to be published alongside next month’s pre-budget report.
Sarah Jackson, chief executive of Working Families, welcomed the government’s emphasis on extending part-time work.
She said: “There are far fewer part-time jobs available than there are part-time job-seekers. So new ideas to help employers fill their vacancies by creating more family-shaped jobs will help everybody.
“It’s a real waste of time and talent, to restrict a post to full-time jobseekers only.
“If employers who advertise via Jobcentres can be helped to rethink how jobs are designed, ultimately this will be a real win-win-win, for employers, parents and the economy as a whole.”