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Usdaw urges the Government to fundamentally reform flexible working to help working parents through the Covid-19 crisis

Date: 06 July 2020 Retail trade union Usdaw has today responded to a call for evidence about the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on women in the workplace, initiated by the Women and Work All Part Parliamentary Group, with a call to strengthen and extend the right to request flexible working in the following ways:
  • Right to request flexible working from day one for all workers.
  • Make it possible to request a temporary change to working patterns.
  • The workers’ right to appeal should be mandatory, not optional.
  • Workers should be allowed to make more than one request every 12 months.
  • A statutory right for mothers for a pre-maternity leave return to work meeting.  It will be a mother's right to have a pre-maternity leave meeting to discuss plans for return which may include a change to hours, i.e. a flexible working request, rather than wait until returning and then having the discussion.
  • When employers recruit to a post they should be under a legal duty to consider which flexible working arrangements are available in the role and publish these in the job advertisement.
Paddy Lillis – Usdaw General Secretary says: “The majority of our members are women classed as 'key workers' occupying job roles and working in industries critical to the Government's response to the coronavirus. We fully support the recommendations for immediate Government action made by the TUC and have further called for action to tackle increased pregnancy and maternity discrimination and domestic violence.

“We have deep concerns about the limitations of the right to request flexible working, as the economy faces a huge crisis and 1980s unemployment levels. There needs to be a new deal for workers on pay and job security as the country recovers from lockdown. Being able to work the right hours to balance caring responsibilities and employment is crucial for many parents and helps reduce child poverty.

“For too long the essential contribution of workers in retail, distribution, delivery, food manufacturing and the funeral sectors have been undervalued and underpaid.  After this crisis is over, we cannot return to the way things were before.”

Usdaw further calls for:

Maternity Allowance disregarded as income for the purposes of calculating entitlement to Universal Credit.

Domestic violence: Demand for services is increasing and an immediate cash injection is needed to ensure specialist services, particularly grassroots organisations, can meet increased levels of demand. 

Usdaw is also campaigning for the introduction of the following statutory employment rights:
  • Minimum contract of 16 hours per week, for everyone who wants it.
  • Normal hours contract - so that regular additional hours worked are guaranteed.
  • Ban zero-hours contracts.
  • Sick pay paid from day one, at average earnings, for all workers.
  • Increase the minimum wage to at least £10 for all workers, regardless of age.
TUC Recommendations

Change the law to protect new and expectant mother's health and safety:  Government should now change the law to require employers to undertake individual pregnancy written risk assessments

Enforce the law:  The Health and Safety Executive should enforce the law protecting pregnant women workers and new mothers through spot-checks and should actively encourage pregnant women to raise concerns with them (anonymously if necessary).  Employers who break the law should be subject to the full range of penalties including fines.

Strengthen existing protections for pregnant women and new mothers at risk of unfair treatment and redundancy:  Extend pregnancy and maternity redundancy protections to six months after a new mum has returned to work, and ensure all workers have a day-one right to this protection, including pregnant women on zero-hours contracts.  Redundancy should only be lawful in very limited and specified circumstances.

Prevent a large-scale collapse of the childcare sector:  Give an urgent cash injection to the childcare sector to ensure existing levels of provision can be maintained so that mums can return to work.  Additional funding should be provided and targeted at children from low-income households to ensure they do not lose out.

Protect women's incomes by extending the job retention scheme for parents who cannot work because of caring responsibilities:  A more limited form of the job retention scheme should remain in place beyond October to support new parents who are unable to return to work because of childcare responsibilities and enable them to remain on it until childcare settings are fully reopened.  Parents who are not currently furloughed, but who are set to return to work and are unable to find appropriate childcare, should still be eligible for the scheme.

Ensure equal rights and security for all pregnant women and new mums:  The Government should immediately review pregnancy and maternity-related rights to ensure all women, regardless of their employment status, have equal protection and rights at work.

Notes for editors:
 
Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) is the UK's fifth biggest trade union with over 400,000 members. Membership has increased by more than one-third over the last couple of decades. Most Usdaw members work in the retail sector, but the union also has many members in transport, distribution, food manufacturing, chemicals and other trades.
 
For Usdaw press releases visit: http://www.usdaw.org.uk/news and you can follow us on Twitter @UsdawUnion

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