Women in the Workplace for International Women's Day


Today marks the start of International Women's Day, although the day centres on violence against women, many other issues affect women throughout their daily lives. In the workplace especially, women have to be aware of their rights and what they are entitled to.

International Women's Day

In April 2015, the government plan to change the law in regards to shared maternity leave. Fathers, adoptive parents, and partners of the mother including civil partners may be able to take up to a year as leave if the mother chooses to return to work. This would enable the mother to go back to work 3 weeks after giving birth and allow her partner to 'use her leftover leave'. They are also given the option to swap and alternate their leave, if they so choose.

This is particularly helpful to families in which the mother is a 'high earner'. A mother will still be afforded the same right to return to the same job after 26-weeks, from the beginning of her maternity leave.

Women in particular are likely to benefit from the change as it allows more flexibility between the workplace and the home. It will also allow the mother's partner to take a more active role in raising their children.

Flexible Working

Flexible working is another issue that affects women who want to return to the workplace. Many families find it hard to juggle home and work life, but for women especially, there is extra pressure as they may be the main caregiver.

The law states, any employee with a minimum 26 weeks of continuous service who is responsible for a child under 17 (18 if the child is disabled), can ask to work flexibly.

There are different types of flexible working:
  • Working from home
  • Working part time
  • Compressed hours
  • Flexitime
  • Job-share
  • Job-splitting
If your employer refuses your application for flexible working, other than on specified business grounds, you can appeal.

Although there is no automatic right to return to work part-time after maternity leave, your request must be considered seriously and, in accordance with the statutory procedure. If not, this could amount to discrimination.

Future Changes

The Government proposes to extend the right to flexible working to all employees from October 2014 and do away with the complicated application process. Employers will still have a duty to consider all requests in a reasonable manner and any refusal must still be on business grounds.

Can I Get Help With Childcare Costs?

If you have returned to work, you may be concerned about how much childcare will cost. In 2013, childcare costs rose on average by 19%. Only 17% of parents with one child thought the government was "doing enough", this figure rose by 20% for those parents who had 3 children.

Your employer may be able to help you with childcare costs. If parents feel secure about their childcare arrangements, they are less likely to take time off work and more likely to come back after maternity leave. Therefore, it is an incentive for your employer to help with these costs.

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