The government has announced a package of measures to encourage more women back to work following maternity leave.
The proposals, which include investing an additional £2million a year into childcare, creating 50,000 extra childcare places, introducing tax-free childcare and extending the Office Childcare Business Grant Scheme, are hoped to see 450,000 more women return to the workplace by 2016.
Matt Duffy, Head of Online Benefits at Aon Employee Benefits said: “The range of measures the government have outlined will allow working parents who wish to get back to work, financial support in which to do so. There are currently too many parents who have to sacrifice careers because the increasing cost of full-time childcare is prohibitive. At £177 a week for a child under 2, the average annual nursery cost is £9,204 per annum per child from Net Pay. Any additional support will be welcomed by those wishing to return to the workplace.”
Data from the Office of National Statistics show that although the numbers of women in employment has increased by more than 771,000 to 14.4m since 2010, over 200,000 of these women currently have dependent children.
However, the proposals have been met with criticism from those who say that stay-at-home mums will feel ‘pressured’ into returning to work. The Chartered Institute of Taxation in particular warned that stay-at-home mums had already been ‘worst hit’ by previous government reforms which had scrapped child benefit for families with one parent earning over £50,000.
But according to Duffy, who described critics warnings as ‘extreme’, the government’s measures will help with parents’ choices as to whether they wish to return to work or not. He added: “As the UK population and in turn, our workforce, becomes more diverse and demanding of its employers, these proposals will help parents make decisions on their career aspirations and work-life balance requirements, rather than just a decision on whether there will be any salary left after childcare costs.”
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