CHILDCARE AND SUPPORT FOR PARENTS
My response to the Campaign for childcare, parental leave and flexible working
Thank you for contacting me about childcare, parental leave and flexible working. I have noted the concerns of those taking part in similar campaigns, including the March of the Mummies protest.
I agree that high-quality affordable childcare is vital infrastructure. The outcomes are the return on the spending.
I applaud the Government’s efforts to improve the cost, choice and availability of childcare: the Department for Education (DfE) has spent over £3.5 billion in each of the past three years on its early education entitlements and intends to continue this support.
In the 2021 Spending Review, the Government increased funding: £160 million for 2022/23, £180 million for 2023/24, and £170 million for 2024/25, compared to the 2021/22 financial year. This allows local authorities to increase childcare providers' hourly rates and reflects cost pressures and changes in the number of eligible children anticipated at the time of the Spending Review.
Regarding parental leave, maternity leave entitlement in the UK is one of the most generous in the world, with employed women entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, of which 39 are paid.
New fathers are eligible to take two weeks of paid paternity leave within the first eight weeks following the birth or adoption placement. Eligible employed fathers also have other entitlements to balance work with childcare, including paid annual leave, unpaid parental leave and the right to request flexible working.
Shared parental leave allows eligible parents up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay in the first year.
I support the Government’s work in recent years to reform both parental leave and pay, and the legal framework to request flexible working (where employees can request a change to their hours, pattern or place of work). Updates on these consultations will be provided in due course. Flexible working in all its forms has benefits for both individuals and employers.