Nick Clegg’s announcement today may be overshadowed by various rows in the media, but this is an historic moment. Parents will soon be able to share 50 weeks of the 52 weeks maternity leave entitlement, and everyone will have the right to request flexible working.
Why does this matter?
Because we are wasting the talent of our women workers to such an extent that when women start a family they often take a drop in their pay, lose the opportunity for promotion or even can find themselves locked out of the labour market. About one million women are missing from the UK market compared to best performing economies.
This is not only wasteful of half our workforce, but it is costing us. As Nick says in his speech today
In the words of the World Bank, gender equality is smart economics. It isn’t just the key to a fairer society, it’s the key to prosperity too.
Together with the right to request flexible working for everyone, parent or not, and the raising of the personal tax threshold (a policy introduced to conference by Women Liberal Democrats by the way) we are seeing radical reforms that will allow fathers more time with their children, and mothers a chance to redress the gender pay gap which affects almost all mothers in their mid careers.
* Women Liberal Democrats aim to eliminate all discrimination based on gender. Dr Miranda Whitehead is current Chair.