Sunday, 8 March 2009

Women's rights in the workplace "a lot done, a lot more to do"

As we commemorate International Women's Day 2009, I thought it a fitting opportunity to reflect upon the steps taken in the last decade that have made a real difference to women's working lives. Trade Unions, women's groups and other campaigning organisations have been at the forefront of a movement to secure better rights, conditions and representation for women in the UK.

From the minimum wage to the extension of paid maternity leave, the introduction of paid paternity leave for new fathers and equal pay and conditions for part time workers - who are disproportionately women - including equal pro-rata pay, pension and holiday entitlements as full timers.

In addition, there has been the introduction of the right to request flexible working for parents of children under six, with plans to increase to 16, or disabled children under 18 with a duty placed on employers to take these requests seriously. Political parties have been given the right to take measures to increase the number of women elected at all levels - only Labour has used these new powers.

Yet, while massive progress has been made, we must not be complacent - women still only make up around 19% of Westminster Parliamentarians and flexible working too often, in reality, places the additional burden of request and responsibility on the woman. We have won much but the fight goes on the ensure that women are recognised in the workplace and represented in politics.

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