Labour and Lib Dem manifestos’ lacklustre approach to equality lets women down again

Women's Equality Party

Labour and Lib Dem manifestos’ lacklustre approach to equality lets women down again

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have once again failed to prioritise women in setting out their manifesto commitments the leader of the Women’s Equality Party said on Wednesday. Both of the parties have gone further than before, in an effort to win back Women’s Equality Party voters, but they have failed to understand the scale of the opportunity.

“WE couldn’t have made it any easier for them – last week the Women’s Equality Party hand-delivered our manifestos to all of the other major parties with an open offer to steal our bold (and costed) plans for free childcare and truly shared parental leave. WE have certainly put an end to pink buses and “women’s manifestos” but the old parties continue to underestimate the scale of the opportunity in equality,” said Sophie Walker

“WE offered these plans in the same spirit that WE always seek to work collaboratively: because it’s urgent now that we take action to provide equal access to work and jobs, close the gender pay gap and drive UK productivity. Labour and the Lib Dems have shown in their election plans a disappointing lack of vision for the women of this country and one that looks surprisingly similar to our policies of two years ago.”

The Women’s Equality Party’s plans for a new system of parental leave would give both parents three months leave each on 90% of pay with additional three months to be split however they choose. This would be funded by a small levy on employers which would form a fund covering shared parental leave payments, protecting employers from unexpected costs and levelling the playing field for women and men at work and at home.

The party is also offering free, universal childcare amounting to 40 hours per week, 48 weeks a year from the end of parental leave to school age.

“Labour’s pledge to extend the current 30-hours offer on childcare is heavily underfunded and states only that it will ‘move towards’ making ‘some’ childcare available for one-year-olds. This falls far short of our offer,” said Walker. “The Liberal Democrats’ 15 hours free childcare promise will not enable the hundreds of thousands of mothers who who want to work to get back to their jobs. Both parties would fail to close the gaps that force so many women out of work.”

She continued: “The Labour Party has pledged to double statutory paternity pay, but this would still be a level far too low for most dads to afford to take time off work. The Lib Dems have taken our advice on ensuring a use-it-or-lose-it proportion for fathers, but only for one month. Our plans go much, much further – and at a time when we are looking at an uncertain Brexit future, innovation and investment  is needed more than ever,” said Walker.

Walker also criticised Labour and the Lib Dems for failing to respond to the alarming funding crisis that is forcing the closure of refuges for survivors of domestic violence, even as reporting rates rise,  and hammering other specialist services that support survivors of sexual violence.

“Two women a week are killed by their partner and one in four women experience domestic violence. Yet women are being denied services to rebuild their lives,” she said. “It is frankly astonishing that the Liberal Democrats do not have a single word in their manifesto about violence against women, the most pervasive human rights violation of our times.”

“But Labour too fails to offer tangible solutions. Competitive tendering that has so shattered the landscape of women’s organisations has done enough damage.WE are proposing a grant model that will ensure the sustainability of the services, particularly services for BAME women and disabled women that are closing at a disproportionately higher rate.”


Editors’ notes

The Women’s Equality Party proposal on free childcare, based on calculations by the Women’s Budget Group, would require annual investment of £33 billion, rising to £55 billion if childcare workers are paid a salary equivalent to primary school teachers. Employment creation in childcare services and through multiplier effects would add up to 1.7 million full-time jobs. Increased tax revenue from additional earnings and reduced spending on benefits will recoup between 89 percent and 95 percent of the annual investment. For the lower wage scenario this leaves a funding gap of 1.7 billion and for the higher wage scenario, of £6.1 billion.

WE will start building up universal childcare at the current salary rates and move towards the higher paid scenario in five years when the upfront investment has paid off. As public spending on childcare is already around £7.6 billion, WE will close the £25.4 billion investment gap by applying a single rate of pension tax relief of 25 percent, unfreezing alcohol and fuel duty and postponing further corporation tax cuts. In five years time the funding gap for the higher pay scenario can be covered by the single pension tax.

WE will establish a parental leave investment fund to implement our shared parental leave policies. The government will provide the fund with £4 billion investment from the infrastructure investment fund. Employers will be required to pay an insurance levy of 0.076% of their total salary costs which will be ring-fenced for the parental leave fund. Self-employed people will only enjoy rights to paid parental leave if they pay the same rate to the fund. The interest generated by this fund will cover its administrative operations and the annual contributions will cover the parental leave uptake. This will ensure a sustainable income for parental leave and employers will not be exposed to any sudden or unexpected costs related to parental leave uptake, which allows for better planning and more sustainability.

Read the full manifesto here.

The Women’s Equality Party has now announced a total of seven general election candidates:

•Sophie Walker – Shipley

•Nimco Ali – Hornsey and Wood Green

•Harini Iyengar – Vauxhall

•Sally Carr MBE – Manchester Withington

•Kirstein Rummery – Stirling

•Sharon Lovell – Vale of Glamorgan

•Celine Thomas – Tunbridge Wells

The Women’s Equality Party was established to highlight and dismantle obstacles to gender equality in the UK: a political and economic architecture rigged against women and diversity, an education system riven with unconscious bias and gender stereotyping, a media that reinforces these stereotypes, a society that assigns little value to caregiving and therefore assumes it to be women’s business, that underpays women and invests less in women’s health and permits endemic harassment and violence against women.

The Party currently has 65,000 members and registered supporters. It aims to put equality for women at the top of the national political agenda by being an electoral force that also works with other political parties; in addition to party membership it also offers joint memberships to members of other political parties.

Press enquiries to Catherine Riley, Head of Communications

( +447764 752 731).

Press at Women’s Equality Party