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The Conservatives are ignoring working women. Labour will unleash their talents

(Alamy)

3 min read

The Conservatives have spent a decade letting down women of all ages and all backgrounds.

Women with healthcare needs are stuck on waiting lists that, in some cases, have trebled over the past decade. And women under the Conservatives are simply getting poorer. Women in the United Kingdom are on average £574 worse off than in 2010 in real terms; and will pay £605m more in tax over the next five years. 

Government ministers regularly state that the best way to overcome these financial challenges is to work longer, harder, or for more money. But another way the Conservatives have let down women is in their failure to support women at work or to help women into work, particularly women in their 40s and 50s. 

The number of women forced to leave their job due to pregnancy discrimination has more than doubled

Women over 50 are the fastest growing group in the workforce. But this period can also be one of the most trying points of life. According to research, financial responsibility peaks at 45. More than one in six people in this age group provide financial support to an elderly parent or a grown-up child, at a collective cost of £10.4bn a year. Women aged 45-64 are most likely to be providing informal care and are often also dealing with their own health and mental health challenges; including with the menopause. As a result, there are also now 650,000 more women than men in their 50s who are economically inactive.

What is the government doing to help women with these challenges or with difficulties at work? There has been a marked lack of ambition in this area. For women starting families, on the Conservatives’ watch, the number of women forced to leave their job due to pregnancy discrimination has more than doubled.

The Conservatives have dragged their feet on extending the right to flexible working, tackling maternity discrimination, and reducing the extortionate cost of childcare. In contrast Labour has outlined comprehensive plans to create a better workplace for women, tackle problems in childcare, and create the right conditions to tap into the wealth of female talent in the UK – backing economic growth led by female entrepreneurs.

The cost of childcare is one of the biggest issues facing families, with many women falling out of the workforce as a result. Labour will provide free breakfast clubs in every primary school in England and enable councils to open new maintained nurseries, as the first step on the road to the modern childcare system we desperately need. 

Labour’s plan also includes introducing the right to flexible working from day one, as well as paid carers’ and family leave. Labour would also extend statutory maternity and paternity leave, and strengthen protections for pregnant women by making it unlawful, as a default, to dismiss a woman who is pregnant for six months after her return. 

For those women running their own businesses, we are working on how to attract greater investment to female-led start-ups through our start-up review. Last year, Keir Starmer highlighted how just one pence in every pound of venture capital investment goes to all-female teams. 
Closing this investment gap could see vast advancement in women-led businesses and help to unleash the talents and entrepreneurship of women in our economy. 

By increasing rights at work, tackling the exorbitant cost of childcare and supporting women entrepreneurs, only Labour has the ambition and the plan to support women at work.

 

Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East and shadow women and equalities secretary.

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