HC Deb 06 May 1999 vol 330 cc1085-6
17. Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham)

If he will make a statement on parental and family leave. [82377]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Mr. Ian McCartney)

We are committed to bringing about a more family-friendly culture in the workplace and the Government will be launching a promotional campaign to help achieve that. The Employment Relations Bill provides for rights to parental leave and time off to deal with domestic incidents. We will be consulting on the detail in the next couple of months, and will take account of the views that we receive before finalising the arrangements.

Ms Harman

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. Is he aware of the evidence from the United States Family Leave Commission which shows that low-income workers who need time off when their children are sick either do not take that leave because they cannot afford it or, take it, borrow money and get into debt? Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging our right hon. Friend the Chancellor to see whether there is some way that we can use the working families tax credit and extend it when people lose their pay on parental leave to ensure that low-income families do not lose out when taking advantage of those important new rights?

Mr. McCartney

The most important thing is to bed down the new culture as soon as possible, getting involvement and agreement from employers and employer organisations about the best way forward. The directive gives us that opportunity. For example, more than 2 million employees will benefit from taking time off for domestic incidents, 85,000 women will benefit each year from the maternity changes and over 61,500 employees will benefit from the parental leave changes. The Government are building up a process of involving industry in best practice, underpinned by a regulatory framework to ensure that no worker is given the sack or has any other action taken against him by his employer him when seeking to take advantage of the new rights. The Government believe that the balance is right, and so do employers. In the consultations, nine out of 10 employers supported what we are doing, and there was overwhelming support from trade unions.