Amid the biggest living standards crisis in a generation, pregnant women and new mothers have been hit especially hard. They and their families have borne the brunt of cuts to government services and social security benefits, including the closure of Sure Start centres, cuts to NHS maternity care funding, and below inflation uprating of Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance – already well below the national minimum wage.
Working mothers have seen their real wages fall, while the cost of childcare has spiralled upwards. Unfair – and unlawful – treatment of pregnant women and new mothers at work has become more common than ever before. In sectors such as social care, catering, cleaning, and hospitality, hundreds of thousands of women are employed on contracts that offer little in the way of pay and job security, let alone basic maternity rights. Widespread job insecurity and falling real wages have also reduced the likelihood of shared parenting within families, entrenching outdated gender roles and blocking progress towards more equal labour force participation rates. This is bad for women, for business, and for the economy as a whole. In the run-up to the general election on 7 May, politicians of all parties will claim to value families, and their manifestos will each set out an offer intended to attract the ‘family’ vote. However, Maternity Action believes the next government must do more than value families – it must also value maternity.
Our manifesto sets out a series of policy actions for doing just that, under three headings: Maternity and Work; Maternity and Justice; and Maternity and Healthcare. In particular, we call on the next government to:
– Raise statutory maternity, paternity and parental pay to at least the minimum wage by 2020
– Abolish (or at least substantially lower) employment tribunal fees
– Adopt ‘flexible by default’ job design in the public sector
– Introduce a proper legal right to breastfeed in the workplace
– Close the ‘childcare gap’ between the end of maternity leave and the start of entitlement to free childcare
– Increase funding of midwifery and maternal mental health services
Read Maternity Action’s General Election manifesto ‘Valuing Families, Valuing Maternity’ here.