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MINISTER FOR WOMEN 'HAS VITAL ROLE'

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With over 400 complaints made to the Equal Opportunities Commission last year about basic pay, dismissal, pregnancy...
With over 400 complaints made to the Equal Opportunities Commission last year about basic pay, dismissal, pregnancy, maternity rights, alternative working arrangements, recruitment and sexual harassment, Joan Ruddock, minister for women has spoken about her vital ministerial role.

Speaking to the TGWU in Eastbourne, Ms Ruddock said:

'No one should be in any doubt that women's concerns desperately need addressing in our society.

'That is why we need ministers for women fighting for women. Women who think about and make decisions about the issues that concern women.

'For the first time we have a government that is committed to putting women's interests at the heart of its thinking. We can make real progress to improve the lives of women throughout the country.'

Ms Ruddock outlined the action the government has taken so far:

-- the 'New Deal for Lone Parents' announced by the social security secretary in July - to help lone mothers back to work

-- the initiative to increase the number of people working in childcare, by encouraging childcare providers, such as local authorities and voluntary organisations, to take on and train young people as childcare assistants through the 'New Deal' for the under 25's

-- the guarantee of nursery education places for 4 year olds

-- increasing the number of after school clubs by investing millions of pounds from the midweek lottery

-- making childcare more affordable by enabling recipients of Family Credit to offset more of their childcare costs

Ms Ruddock continued:

'We are also tackling women's poverty in retirement. Through the Pensions Review we are seeking a solution to the challenge of narrowing the gap between men and women - to give women greater security in retirement.

'We need to ensure that women can get on in the modern workplace by encouraging employers to adopt family friendly employment policies - part-time and flexible hours, job- sharing, work limited to school

terms, working from home, career breaks and paternity leave.

'The best employers are beginning to recognise that it's good for their businesses to recruit women and to help them get on in their jobs.'

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