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Labour promises radical reforms to unequal workplaces

EXPECTANT mothers would see their statutory maternity pay (SMP) extended from nine to 12 months under plans unveiled by Labour yesterday to improve the workplace for women.

Currently, pregnant women are entitled to 52 weeks of statutory maternity leave but SMP, which employers can claim back from the government, is only paid for 39 weeks.

Labour in government also intends to make businesses and organisations with more than 250 employees introduce a menopause policy.

It would include flexible working for menopausal women as well as training for line managers about the uncomfortable long-term fluctuating symptoms associated with the condition.

The party would continue the battle against workplace sexual harassment with a series of measures including making bosses liable for harassment experienced by staff from third parties such as clients and customers.

The timeframe within which employment tribunals can be taken would be extended from three to six months, and the role of equalities representatives would be enshrined in law.

In addition, all workers would be given the right to choose working hours from day one of their job by placing the onus on the employer to prove a job cannot be done on a flexible basis.

Labour is also planning to create a new workers’ protection agency in partnership with HM Revenue and Customs, to fine organisations that fail to report wage disparities between men and women in order to close the pay gap.

The most recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics’ Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings, published yesterday, show that the mean gender pay gap for full-time workers is 13.1 per cent.

This year’s Equal Pay Day, the day in the year when women effectively start to work for free, falls on November 14, next Thursday.

Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler said it was a “disgrace” that women are still lagging behind men in pay.

She said: “I’m sick of how women are treated at work. Audits aren’t enough, we know there’s a problem that needs fixing. So we will do something about it.

“Labour will deliver a workplace revolution to bring about a step-change in how women are treated at work. We’ll boost pay, increase flexibility, and strengthen protections against harassment and discrimination.

“After years of our concerns being ignored, it’s time for real change.”

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