Free Childcare for working women to enable TRUE development of equality within the workplace

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2019 National Women's Conference
25 October 2018

For many women equality at work is often the key issues in their lives and whilst they make good headway in a chosen career or education path this can come sliding to a halt once they have children. As Conference is aware it remains the case that for women the main responsibility for the primary care of their children (unpaid) falls to them. Costs for childcare are variable across the country, with patchy provision of the main requirements of Breakfast clubs, After school clubs, Nursery and kindergarten facilities along with holiday care.

There is some financial help with the costs from Government, but these can also be various, often wrong – either under or over payments which are then clawed back causing significant financial hardship, and these are ‘means’ tested. Depending on circumstances amounts that could be claimed range from 10% >75% which if you are a lone parent on 75% child credit allowance the other 25% still has to be found, and if in a low paid job it can be a financial roadblock.

Other countries such as Sweden, Denmark, large parts of Germany have free childcare to enable working mothers to continue to build a career without detriment. Indeed in Sweden it is presumed that all women return and remain in the workforce after the birth of their children. In this country women are encouraged to return to work after the birth of children but provision is not automatic, they have to find and make their own childcare provision which is not always available and places with local providers may be full or unobtainable.

Conference, it is curious that during both world wars when women’s labour was needed for the war effort they were welcomed and placed in all types of skilled, sometimes heavy or even dangerous jobs – such as munitions factories, chemical works, sawmills, learning to fly and transporting planes around the country for the RAF. Creches and nurseries and after school care were set up to enable the women to work and there was no suggestion that they were too delicate or incapable of doing the work required. All the facilities for childcare were free at that time but as soon as the wars were over and the men came home to take up their old roles, the childcare facilities were immediately withdrawn and women expected to return to their previous status of unpaid mother and housewife, even those who had been made widows during the war.

Currently the government exhorts women to return to work after maternity leave but the difficulties’ of coping with expensive and often difficult to find childcare, adversely affects most women’s ability to continue to advance their careers which most men do not experience.

Conference – childcare provision should be the responsibility of the state as it is in several of our neighbouring European countries and has been provided free of charge by our own country when it suited.

Conference – it is time for free childcare for working or studying mothers again to enable women to have equality at work and in career growth and development.

Conference asks the National Women’s Committee to:

Develop a national campaign for free child care for all working and student mothers.

Work with all appropriate Unison Committees, the TUC and relevant external organisations to achieve free child care.

Work with Labour link with the aim of achieving free childcare as part of the next Labour Manifesto.