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Domestic Violence

25. James Brokenshire: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality, what steps the Government are taking to address violence in the home; and if she will make a statement. [60698]

Meg Munn: Building on the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004, our updated national delivery plan, due to be launched on 28 March, is a comprehensive response to domestic violence. It aims to reduce the prevalence of domestic violence, ensure victims are adequately protected and increase the rate of reporting and successful prosecutions. The Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence, on which I sit, will oversee implementation.

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality if she will discuss with the Home Secretary the possibility of the courts being provided with the power to include restraining orders in the sentencing of perpetrators of domestic violence. [60377]

Meg Munn: I sit on the Inter-Ministerial Group on Domestic Violence which is chaired by my noble friend Baroness Scotland of Asthal QC: the Home Office Minister of State for the Criminal Justice System and the lead Minister for domestic violence. This group provides the mechanism for performance managing the national delivery plan for domestic violence which includes the implementation of the Domestic Violence Crime and Victims Act 2004.

The Act has been rolling out in stages since March 2005. Providing courts with the power to include restraining orders in the sentencing of perpetrators is not yet implemented. The timing of the implementation of this measure is currently being negotiated between the Home Office and the Department of Constitutional Affairs.

Careers Advice

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what assessment she has made of the merits of providing girls with advice on the way in which their career choices may impact their future pay and progression. [60382]

Meg Munn: Government recognise that the career choices made by girls at school could affect their earnings potential. The Women and Work Commission
 
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report that two-thirds of young women would have considered a wider range of career options had they known of the different pay rates.

The 14–19 Education and Skills White Paper sets out an agenda that offers all young people wider choice of what and where to learn, and sets out clear objectives for information, advice and guidance that includes young people understanding the options open to them and their potential implications.

One of the areas the Women and Work Commission looked at was the careers information and guidance available to girls at school. The Government are determined to take action to address all causes of the pay gap highlighted in the Women and Work Commission report and will issue an action plan within six months.

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what assessment she has made of the role that improved career advice for girls could play in closing the pay gap. [60383]

Meg Munn: We recognise that good quality careers advice is essential in allowing girls to make informed decisions regarding their career choices. The Women and Work Commission's final report highlights that, three years after graduating, women earn 15 per cent. less than their male counterparts.

The Government are committed, through initiatives such as the 'Computer Club for Girls', to encouraging girls to consider all types of career options available to them. Such initiatives work to reduce occupational segregation—a main factor influencing the gender pay gap.

The Women and Work Commission presented their final report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on 27 February. One of the areas they looked at was careers information, advice and guidance for girls. The Government are determined to take action to address all causes of the pay gap highlighted in the Women and Work Commission report and will issue an action plan within six months.

Flexible Working

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what measures the Government are taking to encourage businesses to provide more high-quality, high-paid flexible and part-time work at all levels, with particular reference to senior staff. [60378]

Meg Munn: The Government introduced, through the Employment Act 2002, a statutory duty on employers to consider seriously requests for flexible working from parents with children under six or disabled children under 18. The Government also published the Work and Families Bill in October 2005, which extends the right to request flexible working to carers of adults.

The Government encourage all types of flexible working across the work force by providing detailed guidance that promotes the benefits and shares best practice. The Business Link service is a crucial part of the Government's campaign to promote enterprise and to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business. Business Link provides practical support and
 
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advice for employers and its website provides information about the benefits of, and different types of flexible working, including job-sharing and part-time working.

The Acas online advice leaflet 'Flexible working' and their guide 'Changing patterns of work' aims to help employers and employees agree flexible working arrangements that provide benefits to both individuals and their organisations.

The Women and Work Commission have looked at and made recommendations on the availability of quality part-time work including that at senior levels. The Government are determined to take action to address all causes of the pay gap highlighted in the women and work commission report and will issue an action plan within six months.

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent discussions she has had with trade unions about the role they can play in promoting flexible working. [60380]

Meg Munn: I have had a number of meetings with trade unions over the last year to discuss matters of interest, including flexible working. The Government work with a range of stakeholders, including the trade unions, to promote the benefits of flexible working.

Minimum Wage

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what assessment she has made of the effect of the national minimum wage on women. [60381]

Meg Munn: The national minimum wage has benefited around one million people each year since its introduction in 1999, and around two-thirds of those benefiting are low-paid women. The national minimum wage plays a part in narrowing the gender pay gap, as women are more likely to work in lower paid and often part-time jobs than men. The DTI estimates that two-thirds of the 1.3 million low-paid workers set to benefit from the October 2006 uprating will be women.

Women Workers (Public Services)

Lynda Waltho: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what steps she is taking to encourage women who have left jobs in health and education to return to work in those services. [60379]

Meg Munn: The NHS has made great strides in recent years towards becoming a model employer. The NHS plan established the Improving Working Lives (IWL) standard, which states that every member of staff in the NHS is entitled to work for an organisation which provides a range of flexible working conditions and access to good quality, affordable child care. The increased provision of flexible working and child care has been an important incentive in encouraging former NHS staff back to work.

Flexible working arrangements for medical staff were encouraged through the national flexible career and returner schemes for doctors, which provided incentives to employers to establish more part-time posts. In addition, between 1999 and 2004, the Department of Health co-ordinated a national return to practice scheme for other health care professionals, including
 
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nurses and midwives. Returners were eligible for financial support and help with child care, travel and books. Over 18,500 staff returned as a result of this national programme. All returner schemes are now operated by NHS employers depending on local priorities.

Returning to Teach Courses run across England in eight out of nine Government office (GO) regions. Course providers are allocated a number of courses based on the GO's requirements in terms of teacher vacancies in that GO. Approximately 1,200 to 1,400 former teachers attend these 10-week long courses annually to update their skills, knowledge and to increase their confidence levels. 61 per cent. of course completers go on to return to teaching employment according to a recent February survey of 1,011 course completers. Course participants are supported with a £150 a week bursary, with additional support of up to £150 a week for each child or dependent incurring care costs.

In addition to course provision to support former teachers in returning to teach, there is a Return to Teach support service commissioned and managed by the Training and Development Agency for Schools, The Return to Teach service supports former teachers by:


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