Push to widen review of leave

Family-friendly policy campaigners are pressing the Government to widen its
current review of parental and maternity leave.

The campaign, led by Parents At Work and supported by Cherie Booth QC and
Harriet Harman MP, welcomed the announcement that Trade and Industry Secretary
Stephen Byers is to consult on improving the statutory provisions introduced
last December to help working parents.

But it also wants to see laws to entitle those on maternity leave to return
to work part-time as a way of encouraging greater numbers back in to the job

This would require a change to the legislation under the Part Time Work
directive, said spokeswoman for Parents At Work Sue Monk. "We are using
the Sex Discrimination Act to push for greater rights but it is incredibly
weak.," she said.

The Government’s inquiry is thought to be considering proposals to introduce
statutory pay for workers taking parental leave and extend paid maternity

Last month the Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Booth called for changes in the
law to banish the culture of discrimination that made it so difficult for women
to struggle with the balance of work and family life. "The legal system
has not developed quickly enough to deal effectively with this type of
discrimination," she said.

A survey by the Equal Opportunities Commission has revealed that employers
are generally not helping women find more flexible working arrangements such as
part-time hours or job-sharing. It found that in more than half of cases,
requests for changes in working arrangements were rejected or the arrangements
offered were unacceptable, said chairwoman Julie Mellor.

But most disturbing was the fact that one in five of those refused changes
were either dismissed, made redundant or forced to resign. More than a third of
those refused lodged a complaint with the employment tribunal.

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