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Guest Blog: Labour MP Rachel Reeves on the 'Mummy Tax' - what do you think?

(49 Posts)
KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 07-Dec-12 17:34:11

In the Autumn Statement this week, it was announced that statutory maternity pay and maternity allowance would rise by just 1%: below inflation, and therefore a real-terms cut for working mothers.

In our guest blog, the Labour MP Rachel Reeves (who is expecting her first child next year) examines what her party are calling a 'Mummy Tax' - and questions the fairness of the cut.

So do have a read, and let us know what you think. Will you be affected by cuts to maternity pay - or might these changes affect your future plans for a family? Do you agree that women with children are being disproportionately targeted? Post on the thread, and if you blog on this issue, don't forget to link us to your blog.

Please note: Although guest bloggers are invited by MNHQ to post their blog for the Mumsnet Bloggers Network, each guest blogger's opinions are his or her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of MNHQ.

mrscogon34thstreet Fri 07-Dec-12 22:49:34

Rachel, congratulations on your pregnancy, and good luck with it all, having had my own first child this year, I can only say that for me it has been a wonderful time.

However, I despise this latest Labour ‘Mummy Tax’ campaign. For one, the name ‘Mummy tax’ is hugely patronising and sexist for people in a relationship as my husband benefits from maternity pay just as much as me as all our household income is pooled. And let’s be clear although there is a real terms cut due to the rate of inflation, this change is not a tax. As Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury you would have familiarised yourself with the definition of a tax by now. I am not physically handing over income because I am a mother. I am no cheerleader of this current government, but I hate the acrimonious, class war style that your party (and your blog post) is taking. You make it sound as though money which women on ML currently receive is going to be taken away, which isn’t the case at all.

I am not one of those people who lay the blame for the financial crisis solely at the feet of the last Labour government but why were we so horrendously ill prepared? No money was shored up for bad times during the longest period of economic growth we ever saw, your government allowed the cost of housing to skyrocket which only lead to more wealth to accumulate in the hands of those who owned property. If your government had controlled the cost of housing then people wouldn’t be feeling the pinch nearly as badly now.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 07-Dec-12 23:42:17

Good post mrscogon.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 08-Dec-12 07:15:31

Excellent post, mrscogon. The only people I want calling me mummy are those I grew in my uterus, thanks. And tax is just factually inaccurate.

Off to read the blog now.

Good to see the disclaimer, Kate smile

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 08-Dec-12 07:32:50

Ok I have read it now.

Rachel, I think the amount of maternity leave women take has been and will continue to be influenced by their previous income and the overall income and expenses of their household. SMP and MA, whether inflation linked or not, are simply not enough for things to be otherwise.

What proportion of the "lost" £180 is in the first six weeks?

Separately, which are the tax measures that are saving those earning £1m+ £107,0

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 08-Dec-12 07:35:35

Ok I have read it now.

Rachel, I think the amount of maternity leave women take has been and will continue to be influenced by their previous income and the overall income and expenses of their household. SMP and MA, whether inflation linked or not, are simply not enough for things to be otherwise.

What proportion of the "lost" £180 is in the first six weeks?

Separately, which are the tax measures that are saving those earning £1m+ £107,000?

I do agree regarding the low number of women in the cabinet .

poorbuthappy Sat 08-Dec-12 07:44:07

What mrscog said. Brilliant post.

Elegantlybasted Sat 08-Dec-12 09:33:11

I also agree with the post of mrscog. I'd also add that I'm not clear about what the Labour Party would be doing if they were in power. In my recollection before the last election you were planning deep cuts yourself. I haven't heard what Labour's alternatives are, bar spending more - isn't that what helped us get in this state in the first place? The cost of housing has the biggest impact on whether women, not "mummy's" can go back to work. When I had my daughter, we could afford that I stayed at home for my maternity leave, because we hadn't had to take out a stupidly large mortgage to buy somewhere to live. The housing market in this country has been ramped up to the point where couples find it impossible to get on the housing ladder without taking into account 2 full time incomes, losing £180 in maternity pay really doesn't come in to it.
I'd also question the huge tax break you mention for millionaires, what is this?

PastaDee Sat 08-Dec-12 09:46:54

I agree with OPs who have said 'mummy tax' is ridiculous term.

I'm not a conservative voter but a 1% increase in maternity allowances seems fair to me given that all benefit rides are limited to 1%.

As a public serving I am subject to a pay freeze so the concept of anything increasing payment wise is alien to me. I'd love a 1% rise on my salary but I'm not going to get it. Perhaps that skews my view of a 1% rise in maternity allowances?

mrscogon34thstreet Sat 08-Dec-12 10:11:34

PastaDee I may be wrong but I think it was announced in the Autumn statement that public sector pay will be rising by around 1% - so you might get your 1% rise after all. Don't quote me though.

VivaLeBeaver Sat 08-Dec-12 10:15:23

I'm sorry but boo fucking hoo.

I've had a pay freeze for the last 3 years. Were any MPs figting my corner no they bloody weren't.

My pay rises for the next 3 years will only be 1%.

So yes, in effect I will have a pay cut for 6 years.

Welcome to the real world. It's shit.

TrillsCarolsOutOfTune Sat 08-Dec-12 10:56:12

I think that's a hideous phrase.

expatinscotland Sat 08-Dec-12 11:18:20

Great post, mrscogon. And what a horribly patronising misnomer. This isn't a tax or even a cut, it's a rate freeze, in line with other state benefits barring pensions (no change to Winter Fuel Allowance or free bus passes, either).

Also, low-income women like me have been compelled to go back to work less than 6 months after giving birth for years, and Ms Reeve is just now getting clued up about this because she's having a baby? hmm

I went back when my DD1 was 2 months old 9 years ago and when DD2 was 4 months old 6 years ago.

A 1% freeze wouldn't have made any difference, I was paid full whack by my employer and when they ran out, I couldn't afford the 10% drop.

Them's the breaks, Ms Reeve, that's what's been the real world for us for years, and I doubt strongly that Ms Reeve will feel any pinch at all - I'm certain the maternity package we work to provide MPs with is far, far more generous than most of us get in the real world.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sat 08-Dec-12 13:01:21

YY expat.

MiniTheMinx Sat 08-Dec-12 15:31:15

Just had a quick read through the blog post and I am struggling to see any hint of class war rhetoric in there.

I agree with others this isn't a tax. Perhaps if labour spoke clearly they might have more support.

Women on low wages relying at statutory maternity pay have always been at a disadvantage. I was lucky I got full pay for most of my leave and full pay minus 10% for approx two months leave. I worked in the public sector (11 years ago now) Before anyone bleats about how unfair it is, if you work for a private company that maximises it's profits from your is between you and your employer, take it up with them, join a union, don't bleat like winging children. The fault lies with greedy business owners and corporations that maximise profits from your labour, perhaps if so many were not tax dodging the state might have the money to pay a decent statutory allowance, or if they were not so greedy, perhaps private business could fund it's own workforce.

You can't have it all ways unless you are one of the wealthy, or a corporate citizen and then the state becomes a very generous benefactor.

It's about time the labour party started to represent _working people_ again, the whole history of peoples day to day lives has been about class struggle. Labour lacks all credibility because most people realise that providing a strong state sector and a decent welfare state is incompatible with unregulated capitalism and pandering to the city.

The labour party is a lost cause because it has lost its way, has no credibility and lacks any clear purpose.

Jcee Sun 09-Dec-12 09:43:46

Fab posts mrscogan, expat and minitheminx

Like viva I've had a no pay rise for the last 3 years and we are getting nothing this year and told to expect the same for the next 2-3 years - is that a tax? No, it's just the real world and I have to get on with it. I've had a child during that time and we had to work around what we could afford with regard to length of maternity leave and to be honest £180 would have made no difference whatsoever.

I despise the term "mummy tax" - its a patronising media friendly sound bite, which creates a hugely distracting perception of the middle class having to cut back on cappuccinos whilst on maternity leave which removes debate from the real issue.

I woud like to see the labour party setting out what it would do in power and challenging the government instead of wheeling yet more spin and inaccurate bluster

MoreBeta Sun 09-Dec-12 12:51:54

Yes really excellent really posts above.

Raising maternity allowance by 1% keeps it in line with wages which are hardly rising or indeed falling for many people in both nominal and real terms.

The thing that should be being talked about is how Govt and Bank of England policies have created inflation that relentlessly outstrips wage increases. Labour deliberately pursued inflationary polices and the Bank of England went along with it. The ConDems are doing no better.

No one in the political class and senior civil service wants to discuss how terrible inflationary polices are undermining living standards of ordinary people. They prefer the yaboo narrow politics of Westminster village while looking out for their next part time Directorship while pulling down nice inflation protected salaries and pensions and enjoying sky rocketing house prices in their nice tax payer funded homes.


EdgarAllanPond Sun 09-Dec-12 15:32:25

echo vlb

our department has been limited to 0.5% increase for a while

so being on mat leave (as i am for the fourth time) 1% looks fine.

again - this isn't a tax. it's a restriction of benefit increase.

the stringent planning and building regulation brought in by Labour in our area has meant nothing getting built and nothing's going to get built, even in the downturn house prices have stayed steady consequentially. the condems aren't really looking to change that though.

expatinscotland Sun 09-Dec-12 17:35:05

Salient points, Beta.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 09-Dec-12 19:42:45

Rachel I'm very interested to know what Labour would have done in this instance instead? Would you be looking to increase benefits by more across the board, and if so what you be cutting instead to pay for it?

As Elegantlybasted said, Labour were apparently planning cuts of the same percentage as the Coalition. So where would you have cut to allow an increase of >1% to SMP?

We are now past the mid-point of this parliament, and Labour are still to come forward with any concrete policies. How can they possible hope to be a credible alternative to the current administration, when all they can say is 'well we wouldn't be doing that'?

Caerlaverock Sun 09-Dec-12 21:26:31

Maybe speaking to women like adults instead some infantilised version of women developed in a think tank would go down better?

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 22:05:17

I really don't see why so many posters are offended by the term mummy tax. Ok so it may not technically be a tax. But it is a cut and it will predominantly affect mothers as it will apply to maternity leave . But let's understand why this short hand has been used. Because most of the women who will be affected are not the well read mumsnetters that seem to have been posting views on this blog. They are the overwhelming number of women who will simply see the tough times they face financially when on maternity leave become even tougher by around another £180. Newspapers and media in general are lazy just as many of the public are too lazy to read the detail of autumn statements or budgets. They need the shorthand and the mood music. Mummy tax gives a flavour of what is happening. I am all for it (the phrase rather than the cut)

FloatyBeatie Sun 09-Dec-12 22:18:23

I think it goes beyond simplification, though, right the way through to stupidity and patronising dishonesty. I'm a fiscal-statements numpty and even I find it annoying to refer to a real-terms cut as a tax. But that is less annoying than the use of the word mummy, which speaks of a kind of reflex homage to an electorally important constituency (women) that Labour seems to be treating as a resource that is theirs for the taking, just because the Tories do an even worse job of taking women seriously. "Mumsnet election," "mummy tax" -- those are weasel terms that suggests women can be bought by casual flattery. They are the political equivalent of flowers bought from the petrol station on the way home.

expatinscotland Sun 09-Dec-12 22:20:48

Because this is an invididual with a taxpayer-funded home (possibly more than one, and not a minging, damp flat like she can be turfed out of with two-months' notice as so many of the working poor have to live), an incredibly generous pay/pension and expensese package (including maternity beyond SMP) who has just now picked up this baton because she's pregnant with PFB and then labelled it with a patronising misnomer. 'Mummy'. 'tax'. It's not even a cut. It's a freeze below the level of inflation, the same types of pay freezes we in the real world have experienced for years whilst no one in Parliament seemed to give a toss.

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 22:27:58

Expat that is a bit unfair. You complain when the politicians take no notice of your issues, and then you complain and make personal attacks when they do. They can't win.
Loads of women were mesmerised by Cameron and Clegg in 2010 with women overwhelmingly voting in the coalition. Now it is screwing them big time. Women, especially mothers are being hit hardest by the range of freezes and cuts. If this resonates with women and gets them to think before they vote next time, it is worth it to have a shorthand term.

MiniTheMinx Sun 09-Dec-12 22:49:59

verysqueezedmiddle you seem to be implying that women don't engage with politics because they are too fluffy headed and can be won over by a few catchy sound bites. Are women are so dim, ( I believe they are not)

I would argue women tune out because they know that we don't have a truly democratic system and that all three major parties have little real interest in women's lives past which box they tick on election day.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 09-Dec-12 22:50:08

I love "The political equivalent of flowers bought on the way home at the petrol station."

I agree with Floaty - it's not a handy catchphrase, it's an inaccurate description, even without the "mummy" bit. And as it's about to become law re splitting maternity leave, I assume it will in fact be a "mummy and daddy" tax.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 09-Dec-12 22:56:22


It is completely pointless though for Labour to focus in on such a narrow point - especially when they provide no credible alternative.

And it is not a cut, it is a small raise but below the rate of inflation. I'm not sure how you would justify a larger increase against the background of public sector pay restrictions.

expatinscotland Sun 09-Dec-12 22:57:54

'You complain when the politicians take no notice of your issues, and then you complain and make personal attacks when they do.'

Did I complain, personally? No, I said it was a reality for many of us, so did another poster on this thread. I got on with it, the same as millions of people do in the real work of work whether it's maternity leave or sick leave and plenty of people on this thread.

And your definition of a personal attack is another's definition of stating the obvious.

I find it equally offensive to patronisingly label women as 'mummies' who can't understand the difference between a tax, a cut and a freeze by people in parliament who won't feel the pinch of any of them.

Well stated, Mini.

LittleFrieda Sun 09-Dec-12 23:06:08

I'm a little hungry. I think I'll have a mummy snack before bed.

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 23:09:13

I am not saying women are won over by catchy sound bites. But I think these shorthand phrases are what acts as flags to them to look at the bigger issues. It might be because they are tuned out from any politics or it might be because they have lots of other stuff to deal with on a daily basis.

Sadly too many women show no real interest in politics. If they re not happy with the current bunch that are there then there is no point sitting moaning about it, they need to do something - at the very least use their vote. I get so cross when I hear other women wringing and then saying they can't be bothered to vote when it comes to elections.

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 23:10:06

That should have said whinging

VivaLeBeaver Sun 09-Dec-12 23:10:38

Why is Rachel Reeve not interested in publicising public sector pay freezes and benefit freezes?

I could be cynical and say that the only reason Ms Reeve is interested in this "mummy tax" (which is a vomit inducing phrase) is firstly because its a vote winner and secondly because she's personally affected.

Though I some how doubt she will notice the "loss" of £180 that much. Not on her salary.

Publicising the plight of benefit scroungers or the demonised public sector workers isn't quite as popular with the electorate is it Rachel? Now remind me, how much of a pay freeze are MPs on?

I'm sick of been patronised by politicians. They think everyone's too thick to work out what's going on.

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 23:15:05

I think you will find that Miliband made some comments on the attacks on those on benefits today.

Viva - you are right she won't notice the loss because MPs don't get SMP. They don't actually get maternity leave . Just get paid and are expected to carry on the job.

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 23:17:30

Also why is no one commenting on the rest of the blog? Do we think she is right that women are getting a worse deal from the cuts, taxes, freezes?

It wasn't all about the mummy tax

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Sun 09-Dec-12 23:22:34

I did comment - I asked where the £107,000 tax cut calculation came from.

MNHQ, is Rachel going to come and comment again, do you know?

LittleFrieda Sun 09-Dec-12 23:36:37

verysqueezedmiddle - you seem to be working very hard for the Labour party on Mumsnet. Might the fact that people aren't commenting on the rest of the blog be because people can't be bothered to read it?

You only need look at the impact assessment of Osborne's Autumn Statement to see that the rich pay more than the poor, even in pecrentage terms. But of course the botom decile did not escape unscathed and came off worse than the squeezed middle. That is regrettable in some cases but it was a very intentional and well publicized consequence of the statement; to make work pay better than benefits. Do you not read the papers?

verysqueezedmiddle Sun 09-Dec-12 23:46:36

Yes the rich are paying more. As they should. But the poor are also being hit hard. I support work over benefits where people can work.but this latest statement will affect the poor who are working too, not just those with the curtains drawn as Osborne puts it.

I don't know reeves but she can't be any worse than this out of touch bunch currently running the country. Not sure that counts as working hard for the Labour Party.

MayaAngelCool Sun 09-Dec-12 23:51:25

'Mummy tax' is a patronising and oversimplified catch-all term at the same end of the annoyance scale as 'yummy mummy'. Anyone who uses either phrase without irony should be whipped.

Rant over. Will read the blog now.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Sun 09-Dec-12 23:57:30

Very squeezed how can you make a statement like that while accusing women of not engaging with politics?

Pot, kettle?

If women are being hit hardest by the cuts, it is because they are more dependant on the state than men, on average. What need addressing is why that is, and what can be done to alter the situation.

Sexist, single-issue soundbites are not going to help one iota.

merrymouse Mon 10-Dec-12 06:42:41

To be honest, as well, I find it difficult to get that upset about a real terms cut to statutory maternity pay when the general picture has improved so much over the last few years. When I was pregnant with my son 10 years ago, I can dimly remember that you didn't really have any rights until you had worked for a company for a couple of years, and max maternity leave was 6 months. I was one of the first people to be able to take advantage of the ability to ask for flexible working hours, and by the time I had my daughter, maximum leave had increased to a year, and now pay has been extended to 39 weeks. Looking forward, fathers will be able to share leave.

It would be nice if maternity pay were more, however, as others have said, it has never been enough to make the difference between a woman being able to work or stay at home.

Now, I would be interested in some comment from Labour on what they would do about Child Benefit, should they win the next general election?

VivaLeBeaver Mon 10-Dec-12 07:17:54

YY Merry Mouse, I had dd 12 years ago and couldn't even afford to have 6 months off. Had to go back when she was 5 months old. That was under a Labour govt. Yes they did change things later on, but when I had dd they'd been in power for 4 years. So hadn't exactly been falling over themselves to improve things.

Most women I know seem to manage a year off work now, which is fab.

Chubfuddler Mon 10-Dec-12 09:05:08

So strongly agree with the majority on this thread.

Is this turning out the way ms Reeve hoped, do you think?

KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 10-Dec-12 09:53:47

Hello TheDoctrineOfSnatch

It's not previously been the norm for guest bloggers to respond to comments - but we'll certainly pass on an invitation to do so to Rachel.

poppyseeds99 Wed 12-Dec-12 10:14:00

I reckon Ms Reeves was probably referring to the fact that the top rate of tax has been cut from 50p to 45.

Osborne & the Tories reckon this tax cut for top earners gives £40,000 to every person earning more than £1m a year.

But Miliband said the those on seven figure salaries would actually benefit from an average extra of £107,000 after the budget.

Depends on whom you believe really... hmm

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 12-Dec-12 10:17:05

Ah, thanks poppy. It's just really annoying in a blog controlled by the blogger (as opposed to restricted by column space or something) that something like that would be stated with no further explanation or link to a calculation etc.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Wed 12-Dec-12 10:37:33

With the top rate of tax, I think it is worth pointing out that it in fact raised no extra money. It did raise some in the first year, but the IFS and HMRC were not sure that it would continue to raise money, and there was concern that it could have a negative effect on tax revenues.

Based on pure economics it should have been cut entirely, because a tax should be solely about raising money rather than punishing certain sectors of society or making a political point or attempting to drive behaviour. However Osbourne didn't feel he could do that in these times without being lynched by those who believe that tax is a social tool as well as an economic one, so we have the 45p rate.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 12-Dec-12 11:34:25

So if I earn £1m and currently pay 50% tax on the top £850k and will now pay 45% tax on that band, I save £42,500 in tax.

If I earn £2.25m then I save £105,000. Maybe RR's figures are based in the "average" millionaire's salary?

I realise this is over-simplistic as there will be lots of tax planning in both cases.

<off to promote More or Less podcasts on my Science and Nature Club thread>

EdgarAllanPond Wed 12-Dec-12 16:38:04

tax receipts in that bracket actually decreased when the 50% band was brought in in the last three weeks of a 13-year long labour administration.

it is a massive simplification to say it is a tax cut, when it is so easy for people in that bracket to tax-plan around it.

and given it was such an obvious piece of political manoeuvring in the first place, not something that did Labour any credit.

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