12 December 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron has admitted that he will not protect parental pay from overall budget cuts in 2015.
In the Autumn Statement, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said total government welfare spending will be capped within the next two years, with the precise limit set in Spring 2014.
Attempting to persuade the Labour Party to agree to an overall cap from 2015, Cameron was questioned in the Commons about how such a policy would affect working people. The Prime Minister confirmed that only Jobseeker’s Allowance and the Basic State Pension will be excluded from the cap, meaning that parental pay could be slashed if economic pressures result in rises in other benefits.
“David Cameron talks a lot about supporting hard-working families but under this government low-paid new mothers have already lost almost £3,0000 in support during pregnancy and the first year of their baby’s life through cuts to childcare, the health in pregnancy grant and a real-terms cut in the maternity grant,” the Daily Mirror quoted Fiona O’Donnell as saying.
Under the government’s Children and Families Bill, families will soon be allowed to share maternity leave between both parents, but this policy has been deeply criticised for being inaccessible to most people. Indeed, as statutory parental pay will remain at an extremely low rate – much lower than the take-home pay of a worker on minimum wage – very few fathers will be able to afford to share childcare.
What’s more, the UK currently offers the lowest rate of parental pay in the whole of Europe, with just 1.4 months of well-paid leave and 9.5 months of total time off available to mothers. This compares with the European average of 9.9 months of well-paid leave and 20.6 months of total time away from the workplace.
Further cuts risk increasing the gender pay gap and putting young families under tremendous pressure.
The Institute of Employment Rights’ equality experts will be discussing this and other timely issues at our next Equality and Discrimination conference in Liverpool next month.
Click here to book your place