Change the discussion—and policy—when it comes to familiesby Harriet Harman / February 16, 2017 / Leave a comment
All prime ministers talk about families, which isn’t surprising. After all, families are everything for a child and for an elderly person—and very important for all the years in between. But, if I ruled the world, I’d have something to say about the way that politicians had this discussion.
I’d ban them from going on about how important marriage is and how damaging divorce is. Most cabinets are full of ministers on their second or third wives so they are in no position to lecture. I’d ban sneering at lone mothers too. The mean message it sends to their children is: “There’s something wrong with your family and therefore something wrong with you.”
I’d forcibly narrow the gap between what women and men earn. It benefits children to have a strong relationship with both mother and father. But most new fathers can’t afford to take more than a few days off. It’s hard for fathers if they work all hours and end up missing out on the children. We should have Swedish-style paternity pay and time off. But I’d keep a careful eye out for spikes in the number of men taking family leave during the World Cup.
It’s hard for women to be equal at work if they take most responsibility at home. I’d have a real crackdown on employers who pay part-timers less and fail to give them promotion. All jobs should be advertised as being available part-time as well as full-time. And I’d back men who work part-time. Part-time workers should not be seen as second-class citizens. We all have a big stake in the next generation being brought up successfully.
I’d give grannies (and grandads) a right to time off work to care for their grandchildren. You can get help to pay a childminder, but not your own parents if they give up work to care for your children. The mother and father have a right to take leave when there’s a new baby. But what if the mother wants to go back to work and wants her parents to look after the baby? I’d rule that she could transfer some maternity leave to her parents as well as to the baby’s father.
I’d make childcare part of the welfare state and oblige all governments to guarantee childcare for all children whose parents want it. The woman…