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Scottish public sector jobs should be more women-friendly, say MSPs

By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 18 June 2013

Public sector recruitment in Scotland should include flexible and part-time working as standard, Holyrood’s Equal Opportunity committee said today. MSPs also demanded a timetable from ministers for introducing a statutory right to childcare.

The committee's report follows an inquiry into the barriers faced by women in the workplace, which concluded that in spite of progress on a number of fronts, major obstacles remained.

It stated: ‘All jobs within the Scottish Government’s direct control should be subject to a presumption in favour of being advertised as suitable for flexible working and/or for being filled on a part-time basis.

 ‘Regarding other public sector employers, the Scottish Government should take the initiative to secure their agreement to implement that same presumption in their recruitment exercises.’

In terms of childcare, the report welcomed First Minister Alex Salmond recent promise that his government would give priority to improving childcare provision. But it demanded fundamental changes to mainstream childcare provision ‘as a part of our infrastructure’.

It said: ‘We ask the Scottish Government what action it can take towards, and to outline a timetable for the introduction of a statutory right to childcare, including for older children and disabled children.’

The report suggested that the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, currently before the Parliament, provided an important opportunity to begin transforming childcare provision in Scotland.

That Bill, designed primarily to strengthen child protection, has been criticised by some for an over-emphasis on state involvement.  The committee does not endorse that criticism, arguing instead that the Scottish Government should lead by example. But it does note the views of some witnesses that it would be more efficient to subsidise provision than purchase it directly.

The committee admits that many of the key policy levers – such as parental leave entitlement, employment and recruitment law, and the financing of childcare through tax credits – remain reserved to Westminster, and says it will bring its report to the attention of the UK government.

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