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POSTPONED: Live webchat with Vince Cable, Business Secretary [new date to follow](30 Posts)
[Please note this webchat has been postponed. We'll let you know of the revised date and time as soon as we have them]
Following a lively webchat on Gransnet back in December 2011, we're delighted to welcome back Business Secretary Vince Cable for a webchat with Mumsnetters this week.
Vince will welcome your questions, and can tell us about a range of issues including support for those who want to start a business, the range of advice and business expertise available through the mentoring scheme and Growth Accelerator and support such as Start-Up Loans for 18-30 year olds.
He will take questions - amongst other topics - on the reforms for flexible parental leave which will allow working families to exercise choice over how they share childcare responsibilities, and the Government's work on increasing women's representation in UK boardrooms making sure we don't miss out on the talent and skills of half of the population.
Vince can also tell us more about apprenticeships, which offer young people a leg up on the career ladder, and the value offered by adult learning which can provide real wage and employment benefits throughout working life.
We hope you can join us and, as always, do post advance questions here if you're not able to make it on Wednesday!
This is not really a question, but I think that everyone (not just mothers, not just parents, but everyone) should be able to work flexibly if their job allows it.
This is a question: how do you think we can encourage companies to build the environment of trust that is necessary in order for flexible working to actually work? Right now there is too much "working from home (wink wink nudge nudge)" where people who work remotely or do non standard hours are thought to be skiving, and so companies are reluctant to allow it even when the employee's work could easily be done from home.
Dh & I would like to share parental leave but he's on a casual hours contract meaning that he's not entitled. These are very common now ( or zero hours ones) so lots of people don't have the option.
Does the government plan to help people have the option by tightening up on these contracts ( in situations like this where dh has worked 20h+ a week for 2 years but has no rights )
How do you feel the 6 weeks of 90% pay for SMP compares with European counterparts? Do you feel there is anything to be learned from maternity and parental leave rights available elsewhere in Europe and who should the UK hold up as a role model in this area?
It seems to me that there are an awful lot of really skilled/qualified women who have had years out of the workplace due to child-rearing. DW is one such person. Do you not think that the government should be looking at ways of getting these women into the workplace at an equivalent level to where they were before they left to have children? It strikes me that there is an awful lot of under-utilised if not wasted talent not being tapped.
How do you plan to win back voters such as myself after the debacle that was the child benefit overhaul? Thanks in advance for answering my question.
How do you propose to get more women in the boardroom without properly addressing the cost of childcare in the UK? The majority of my mum friends were professionals who didn't return to work largely because the cost of childcare would take most if not all of their income - for example in my area of Greater London, nurseries cost up to £90 per day.
I don't have faith that increasing the ratio of children to staff will bring down costs. As far as I can tell this will be voluntary for the childcare providers to pass on savings and as most nurseries are money making enterprises there is no incentive for them to.
Gazzalw put it very well but I will rephrase to increase the chances at least one of us gets answered.
Many women leave the workplace to have children and later find it impossible to go back to work at anything approaching the level they were at before they left. Sometimes this is genuinely because their job has changed in the interim but more often it is because of inflexibility, prejudice and lack of retraining opportunities.
What do you propose to do about this? Surely the massive waste of talent and skill does not make economic sense?
In common with other posters here, I would dearly love for the government to turn its mind to the huge problems with work/childcare. Women have almost achieved equality in the workplace before they have children. You have a baby, take a few months off and suddenly you've become a 2nd class citizen in the workplace.
Before children I earned the same as DH. I now earn 1/4 of what he does despite similar levels of education (although he also has a Phd now) and have struggled to build a career of any kind mainly due to the fact we had 3 children. In France I would have been able to place my children in free or virtually free nursery at the age of 2 and returned to work much sooner and therefore not lost as much ground.
I whole-heartedly would support any move to shared parental leave as that would at least equalise out mothers and fathers in the workplace, which is a start. I also think that people with other caring duties should not be ignored- some people may be looking after elderly or disabled family members.
The difference there is that such adults attract their own payments for going into day centre etc whereas children are entirely at their parents' charge which would be fine if childcare were not unaffordable for so many people. We are in the middle income bracket so are not eligible for any state support with childcare.
My sister left a violent relationship and went back to work when her children were 2 and 4. She ended up paying nearly half her income in nursery and after-school care. Even with various credits and being extremely careful with spending of any kind, she was living at a £200/month deficit for several years. Wraparound care should not be as extortionate as it is at present (I've recently of £12 per child per 3:30-6pm session!! How can that be affordable for most people?)
I would like to ask Vince about the university fees, and how the new scheme is working. In particular I would like to ask him if he is pleased that numbers applying to university are dropping, and if he can confirm that the repayment process is not 'fixed' (ie the T&C can be changed after you have incurred the debt, meaning you could pay back at a lower salary, or at a higher rate, or for a larger number of years). And if he is still 'surprised' that most universities are charging the full 9k a year.
I would highly advise him and the rest of the LibDems not to include a 'commitment to lower the cap on tuition fees' in their next manifesto, as has been reported in the press, it is too sore a subject, and too big a 'promise broken' (to quote Nick Clegg).
I'd like to ask you about how you see apprenticeships as actually working. As someone who has line managed a few (local gov) my experience is that these are bought in as low cost labour who are expected to do exactly the same role as any other member of staff and who aren't given the training support they need. I think that there is also a real issue with well qualified, well paid members of staff being made replaced / made redundant by apprentices to save the organisation money and 'look good' in reports. How can central government ensure that apprenticeships are there to help with the development of young people and not just saving an organisation some cash and stopping people with experience (mums?!) gain employment?
A few questions here, but they are all related so if you could answer them all I would be overjoyed. (If you answer any in fact I will be pleasantly surprised)
Are you personally in favour of proposals to deregulate childcare, in particular to reduce staff ratios? Do you honestly believe that this is possible without a loss of quality? Have you ever looked after, 2, 3, 4 or 5 toddlers at the same time, on your own? If not, have you observed anyone else do this? (Or has anyone involved in this legislation done so, or observed a qualified person doing so?) And were they safe, secure, kindly and educationally engaged with the whole time?
However, even if you think that the welfare of children doesn't matter relative to cost, do you actually believe that this will result in costs coming down? I don't, I think it will result in costs going up for premium services who can offer decent ratios (which used to be standard) and everyone else, who is already squeezed to the max on childcare, gritting their teeth and hoping for the best as they sent their kids off to some (literally) shitty baby farm staffed by desperate people who never get time to check nappies, let alone do anything more significant.
I do not believe that the market is a suitable instrument to set the standard for things of vital personal and ethical importance, for example, childcare. Do you think that the market is good at this sort of thing? If so, why do you think we have laws against, for example, child labour in this country? When is regulation acceptable, and when is it treading on the toes of Business too much? I think we need to protect our children.
For context, so that you can understand why I am desperately keen for minimal standards of childcare to be protected by law, I cannot even begin to think about affording anything premium. At £5 per hour (standard rate) full time childcare for two children costs £26k per year. This is of course paid for from our net so we have to earn something like £35k to pay it. We're working flat out, and we're flat broke. Do you have any advice?
We've just heard from Vince Cable's office - Vince will be joining us a little later than scheduled at 2pm-3pm tomorrow. I hope you are able to join us at the new time and, if not, you can of course post advance questions here as usual.
Oh good, he has obviously taken an extra hour to consider the answers to my very important questions. Glad to see he is taking us seriously.
I would like to ask Vince about flexible working and any efforts to encourage employers to change the business mindset and make flexible working more acceptable and less judged (negatively). Whilst I welcome the changes that have been made to legislation, it feels to me that there is still a great deal to be done on mindset. I am a middle/senior level manager trying hard to get back into the workplace after a short career break, but because I want to work 80%, employers seem only to see what I can't offer in time, not what I can offer in skills and experience. I just wondered if there were any plans to incentivise employers to understand the benefits of flexible arrangements - more focused effort, increased loyalty and retention etc. ?
Hello Mr Cable, did you feel a shiver of schadenfreude at the Leveson inquiry?
Do you think the incestuous relationship between Politicians and media is over?
Do you think Nick Clegg will lose his seat in the next general election? I do.
My turf accountant will you good odds.
If you lose your seat, will you do Strictly Come Dancing?
I have a question about childcare and tax relief. In common with many working families, I pay a huge amount in childcare. Childcare vouchers help, but it is nowhere near approaching the real cost. Are there any plans to provide real help to the squeezed middle who I think are contributing a great deal to the economy at the moment?
I'm also one of those professionally qualified parents trying to get back into my career, but am ruling myself out of / unsuitable for most professional jobs because (in our family situation) working full-time leaves us with a stressful, unhappy work-life balance (I've tried it, it didn't work).
There's alot of talented parents who'd be willing to work very hard but not necessarily full-time.
My question is - do you think the UK economy would do well to include more part-time professional roles, to allow for caring responsibilities for children and also elderly parents? And is there anything you can / will do about it?
Oh and what's your favourite biscuit (that doesn't really count as a second question does it?)
Vince - why will the Government not stop propping up the housing market and let the situation takes its natural course - ie downwards. A whole generation will never "own" their own homes and yet everything has been done to keep the reckless in theirs. This is dragging on far too long. If the natural correction had been allowed to happen in 2007 the housing market would have been sorted by now (almost!)
Hi Vince -
can you tell us why the Government doesn't encourage/enforce more working from home, with tax breaks for companies etc. Less pressure on roads and rail, more opportunities for more people to work part-time etc.
Oh, and if you're interested , I would vote to leave Europe tomorrow.
We're afraid we have to postpone today's webchat - Vince Cable has been called to participate in an important Commons debate this afternoon. We're working to find a new date, so that your questions can be answered. Please watch this space!
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