My first 10-minute rule bill is about equality, and it’s about fairness

My first 10-minute rule bill is about equality, and it’s about fairness

Having children in an era where pay is stagnating and the chances of getting on the property ladder are increasingly slim can be a daunting prospect.

For those working on a freelance or self-employed basis, this strain can be felt even more acutely.

Shared parental leave, which enables parents to split their 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks of statutory pay after the birth of their child, has been enshrined in law since 2015 for most people.

But it does not extend to all.

The self-employed, freelancers and those employed in the gig economy are unjustly frozen out.

Last month I had the opportunity to propose my first bill – which I hope will become law – to redress this inequality.

I was given 10 minutes in the House of Commons (known as a 10-minute rule bill) to call on the Tories to stop unfairly excluding millions of people from shared parental leave and maternity pay.

What I am proposing will cost the tax-payer nothing, it would simply allow parents to share what is already a statutory right for most.

My husband and I raised two children while working as freelance writers and actors, and it isn’t easy.

But this is not just a policy designed to help those who work in the creative industries – its scope is so much wider.

Cleaners, builders, beauty therapists, delivery drivers, journalists, engineers, taxi drivers, plumbers and painters are just a handful of the professions that are often undertaken on a freelance or self-employed basis.

My proposal would give dad the chance to stay at home and bond with their baby if they wish, and give mum the chance to return to work if she chooses.

It’s about ensuring the whole of childcare responsibilities don’t fall on the mum’s shoulders from the outset.

It’s about equality, and it’s about fairness.

You may have noticed that we had some inclement weather last week as the so-called Beast from the East reared its ugly head.

It made for a frustrating week, but there were plenty of reasons to be thankful. 

Dedicated NHS workers, bus and rail staff, taxi drivers, police and fire crews, and countless others worked tirelessly to keep us safe and moving.

I drove back up from London to Gomersal on Thursday and thanks to the sterling work of council gritting teams, I made it in record time.

But I realise that I was one of the lucky ones. The M1 ground to a virtual halt on my return journey as a blizzard swept in – and I dread to think of what those unlucky souls trapped on the M62 and their families went through.

I have since received emails from constituents who are not impressed with the length of time the motorway was closed.

That is why I have written to the agency in charge of managing our major routes to see what lessons can be learned.

But for all the havoc it caused, the weather certainly brought out the best in people.

From milk being delivered to people’s doors in Cleckheaton in several centimetres of snow to the intrepid volunteers handing out hot food and sleeping bags on the M62, there were plenty of reasons to be proud.


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