Rich working mothers should have their maternity pay cut in order to fund higher payments to the poorest parents, according to a new commission backed by three former Tory cabinet ministers.
The measure is among proposals to improve parental rights drawn up by the Bright Blue thinktank, which champions liberal Conservatism. The plan would change current rules that give high-paid mothers 90% of their weekly salary for the first six weeks after their child’s birth.
The savings from lowering the 90% entitlement should be spent on increasing the minimum weekly amount given to low-paid workers after the first six weeks off work. They are currently paid the lower of £140.98 a week or 90% of their average weekly wage for up to 33 weeks.
While employers pay statutory maternity pay, they claim all or most of the money back from the taxman. Former cabinet ministers Dominic Grieve, Maria Miller and Caroline Spelman were all on the commission that backed the measure.
Miller, the former culture secretary and equalities minister, said: “Workplace changes over the past decade have not always translated into improvements for British mums. Over the past 10 years, levels of maternity-related discrimination have doubled, and some pregnant working women now don’t even have the right to paid leave to attend antenatal medical appointments to safeguard their baby’s health.
“These recommendations from Bright Blue could help reshape attitudes toward pregnant women at work and create a long overdue culture change which better reflects this country’s laws, values and beliefs.”
The year-long Bright Blue commission is proposing dozens of policies covering human rights and discrimination. Other proposals to help new parents include a radical plan for university-style loans to pay for childcare. It would see poorer parents given a government-backed loan for formal childcare for under-fives. Parents would pay their childcare loans back only when they are working and earning above a certain income.
Bright Blue also backs the right to request flexible working for new employees. Under current rules, they must have worked for 26 continuous weeks with their current employer.
It also calls on the government to force all companies to keep track of the gender pay gap, with the data kept anonymous and released to researchers so that a greater evidence base can be built . The commission also backs the abolition of employment tribunal fees for all basic-rate taxpayers.
James Dobson, a senior researcher at Bright Blue, said the policies would help Theresa May fulfil her pledge to tackle “burning injustices”.
“As she entered Downing Street, the prime minister committed herself to addressing the burning injustice which means women earn less than men,” he said. “Yet the gender pay gap remains stubborn. We know one of the primary causes of the gender pay gap is, sadly, motherhood. The prime minister is right to want to strengthen workers’ rights. In particular, the government should focus on strengthening the rights of working mums. Too many mums face discrimination at work, or do not have the necessary flexibility or supporting to combine parenting and working life.”