Deputy prime minister believes changes to working practices will encourage more women back into employment
Nick Clegg will announce the extension of the right to request flexible working hours to all employees this week. The deputy prime minister will say in a keynote speech that he wants to encourage a culture in which people feel confident to ask employers to change their working hours.
The change will mean people will be able to ask their bosses for flexible hours if they wish to help others with childcare. Only those with children aged 17 and under, relatives and some carers currently have the right to request flexible hours.
Clegg will say on Tuesday that there are a million women missing from the economy but he believes labour can be drawn back into the workforce with such changes to the law. He estimates that if the UK had the same ratio of female entrepreneurs as the US, the economy would be better off by £42bn.
The Liberal Democrat leader will say: “The UK ranks 15th in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [nations] for female activity in the economy. This isn’t a new problem: despite rising since the 1960s, female employment has stalled over the last decade. It is, however, a problem we can no longer afford. Just as working women drove up living standards in the latter half of the 20th century, all the evidence suggests that living standards in the first half of the 21st century will need to be driven by working women once again and this absence of women from our economy is costing us dearly.
“It will be possible for other relatives, grandparents and even close family friends to change the way they work in order to help with childcare.”
Meanwhile Clegg defended the right for Whitehall cleaners to leave letters on desks of ministers imploring them to support a living wage. He was responding to the disciplining of Valdemar Ventura, a cleaner from his office. He said: “Valdemar always did a great job in our office. People should not be punished for campaigning for better pay.”
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