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Annie Hayes

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New family friendly employment legislation proposed

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Parents could be given legal rights to work part-time and choose their employment hours under new proposals being considered by the government.

The new rights would also include giving parents paid time off work if a child is ill and compulsory pay audits at work to force companies to reveal if they are paying women less than men for doing comparable jobs.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday, Constitutional Affairs minister Harriet Harman, who is drawing up the package, said the changes were based on the theory that human capital is crucial to the economy and the family was central to that.

The proposals are a bid by Labour to differentiate itself from the Conservatives but the question is how far the proposals will go.

For instance, the current right to flexible working is only a right to request – if employers feel that part-time working, compressed hours or working from home are not suitable, then they do not have to grant the request.

Equally, the low take up of paternity leave has been linked to the low level of Statutory Paternity Pay at what can be an expensive time in a family life.

The press have interpreted the proposals, which will be debated at the Labour party conference and the Trades Union Congress next month, as being Labour’s bid to win back women voters – but that also ignores the 2004 backlash from childless workers who felt they were being discriminated against.

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Annie Hayes

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