Ruth Kelly Announces action plan to break down barriers to women achievement

A major action plan to tackle barriers to women’s achievement in the workplace and transform the culture in Britain 'from the playground to the boardroom' has been launched by Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly

The Government's action plan includes a raft of practical new measures addressing almost forty recommendations made by the Women and Work Commission in their 'Shaping a Fairer Future' report Measures include:

  • A major new 'Exemplar Employer Initiative' - the Government will work with employers to develop programmes such as helping women returning from work access quality part-time work, flexible working for women and setting up job share registers.  More than 80 organisations have already signed up for the scheme, ranging from high street names to small business to public sector organisations. 
  • The roll-out of new ‘Equality Reps’ across England. The scheme will step up awareness among workers of flexible working rights and discrimination issues by working alongside statutory union representatives.
  • A new 'Equality Check' that will help companies spot any emerging problems with equal treatment of staff such as determining the level of gender pay gap.
  • A national education standard in schools, to step up cultural change by making girls aware of non-traditional career opportunities.  This will come into force from April 2007 to ensure all young people receive careers information, advice and guidance which is free from gender stereotyping. 
  • A new half a million pound fund to support companies and organisations in increasing the number of senior and quality roles available part time.

It is estimated that increasing women’s participation and enabling them to participate in better jobs could be worth between £15 billion and £23 billion a year to the UK economy.

This is on-top of the raft of new rights already introduced by the Government including:

    • Extending the period of paid maternity leave from 18 to 26 weeks.
    • Giving all new fathers the right to two weeks paid paternity leave.
    • All parents with children under six the right to require employers to seriously consider their requests to work flexibly.
    • All parents the right to 13 weeks of additional unpaid leave during the first five years of their child’s life.

 Minister for Women Ruth Kelly announced that all jobs in her own department will now be advertised as available on a flexible or part time basis. Launching this action plan, she said;

"Today's parents find it difficult to balance professional and family commitments The proposals we are setting out today aim to establish a change in culture from the playground to the boardroom. Just because a woman decides to trade down her hours, doesn’t mean she should trade down her status. There have been huge improvements across the workplace but we want all employers to reach the standards of the best.

Chair of the Women and Work Commission, Baroness Margaret Prosser said;
"I am extremely pleased that the Women and Work Commission recommendations are being taken forward by so many government departments.  If government, trade unions and business continue to work together, I believe that we can make a real difference to the lives of millions of working women in this country.
"I expect that this action plan will be vigorously followed through and look forward to hearing about progress next year."


Posted by, Asif Yusuf.


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