James Sunderland backs a Bill to extend redundancy protection for women during pregnancy and for new parents and he also raises the importance of early years funding.
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent speech, and I agree with every single word. I think he touched upon this early when he spoke about economic benefit. Employers out there are thinking, “Oh my word, we need these people back in the workplace.” There are very good reasons for people being in the workplace, but does he agree that this measure will bring nothing but economic benefit to the UK by increasing the workforce and getting more out of the workforce, because we are treating them better?
My hon. and gallant Friend makes an excellent point. As a Conservative, my personal philosophy remains that the state should get out of the way and only needs to step in as and when appropriate. In this instance, it is appropriate. On Second Reading, there was talk about the German strategy. The hon. and gallant Member for Barnsley Central referenced that back in October 2022. My personal view remains that an outright ban on redundancies is not appropriate at this stage. We should always look to encourage better behaviour and good practice and, where appropriate, nudge that behaviour change, and this particular Bill does that.
The Minister is making a persuasive argument and I agree with everything he is saying. We heard earlier about the economic benefits of the Bill, and it is imperative to get more people back into the workplace. In Bracknell Forest in 2009, the birth rate was 1.86. It came down in 2019 to 1.65, and has come down again in 2022 to 1.58. Fewer women across the country are having children, which will have a detrimental effect on our economy in the future. Does the Minister agree that this Bill might encourage women to start families and have children, because they know employers will respect their rights and that they will not be discriminated against?
May I also raise the importance of early years funding, even though that is not a responsibility of the Minister’s Department? It is essential that we do more to allow women to go back to work with their young children in early years care, for which we need more funding.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Kevin Hollinrake)
I heard my hon. Friend’s comments earlier about recognising the pressures on businesses and making sure that we consider their interests when making legislation, and I entirely agree with what he says. Some 575,000 people of working age have left the workplace since the pandemic started. We want to attract more of those people back to work, because they have an important role to play. There are talented people outside the workforce, and businesses need more people in the workplace; measures such as those in the Bill are required.