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Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb, Llywodraeth Leol a Chymunedau

Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee


Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Bethan Sayed AM
Jack Sargeant AM
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
John Griffiths AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Rhianon Passmore AM
Sian Gwenllian AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Anna Whitehouse Sylfaenydd, Mother Pukka
Founder, Mother Pukka

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Chloe Davies Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Elizabeth Wilkinson Ail Glerc
Second Clerk
Hannah Johnson Ymchwilydd
Jennifer Cottle Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol
Legal Adviser

Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.

The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.

Dechreuodd rhan gyhoeddus y pwyllgor am 11:00.

The public part of the meeting began at 11:00.

2. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
2. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Okay. Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Equality, Local Government and Communities Committee. Our first public item today is item 2 on our agenda—introductions, apologies, substitutions and declarations of interest. We have had two apologies, from Jenny Rathbone and Gareth Bennett. Are there any declarations of interest? No. 

3. Ymchwiliad i Feichiogrwydd, Mamolaeth a Gwaith yng Nghymru: Sesiwn Dystiolaeth 6
3. Inquiry into Pregnancy, Maternity and Work in Wales: Evidence Session 6

In that case, we will move on to item 3, which is our sixth evidence session for our inquiry into pregnancy, maternity and work in Wales. I'm very pleased to welcome Anna Whitehouse, the founder of the Mother Pukka blog, which is a website 'for people who happen to be parents', and I know has very many followers—150,000 on Instagram alone. It's about parenting and employment and working with businesses to promote flexible working and shared parental leave. So, welcome, Anna, and perhaps I might start with a few general questions—firstly, an overview, really, of your own personal experiences of pregnancy, maternity and work, because I know that they're quite central to the work that you currently do.

Yes. So, I started the blog and specifically our campaign Flex Appeal, which is to push for flexible working for everyone, in a bid to ultimately close the gender pay gap. We saw that as where the issues lay and that that was something that we could focus on. And it came from my own personal experience. I used to work for the L'Oréal group as a senior creative copywriter. There's nothing bad about them; I still work for them on a freelance basis, so I want to make that clear. But the reasons given for declining my flexible working request then was that, 'If we do this for you, we will have to do this for everybody else.' So, that was the reason given. At that point, I quit mentally, and the next day I actually quit in real life, and it was because—and the sort of core of what we're doing—it seemed strange to me that the way that I was going to work for that business was determined by somebody else's ovaries; it seemed like a strange concept. So, I quit, against all my family's better judgment, because it was the job that I'd worked very, very hard for over a full career. I quit in that moment and set up Flex Appeal, and I posted—that day I had about 150 followers—saying, 'I quit. I don't think the system is set up to enable people to work flexibly and I think there's a huge disparity between what's being said and what's being done.' And so that was the aim of Flex Appeal, and obviously Mother Pukka on a bigger scale was to tackle that issue and how we can close that disparity. 

Okay. And what would you say is the overall aim of your blog then, and what would you like to see in terms of a future vision for parenting and work in the UK?

I think the sole aim of it is to get away from flexible working being a parent issue, which is quite difficult when I have 'mother' in my job title. So, that's why we're really focusing on Flex Appeal—flexible working for everyone, regardless of whether you're a carer, you have mental health issues, you're a parent, a non-parent. I think only when flexible working is truly part of the working landscape—not just a nice-to-have or a bonus—will you actually be able to tackle the bigger issue at play today, maternity discrimination. And I think they go hand in hand.

So, really, what I think we are looking for from businesses is not to lambast businesses but is to highlight good practice, is to show where it's working. I mean, the stats are there. I think that's the thing that surprised me the day I quit—'I must be alone in thinking this', and a little light Googling and you find out just a wealth of information on how this is good for business. So, our aim is to really be on the side of businesses, to help them see the benefits of working flexibly for everybody—productivity increases. I think the Institute of Leadership and Management said that 84 per cent of managers who implemented flexible working saw—and these are the three points we focus on—increased productivity, commitment and staff retention, regardless of whether you're a mother or not. So, we're seeing it as a people issue and something that we hope we can shine a light on—a positive example to help everybody move forward.


Okay, that's great. Thanks for that, Anna. We'll move, then, to Siân Gwenllian.

Diolch yn fawr. Diolch am ddod yma heddiw. A ydych chi eisiau rhoi—? Diolch, a diolch am eich gwaith cyn belled. Rydw i jest eisiau gwybod: a ydych chi'n credu bod y gwahaniaethau oherwydd mamolaeth yn digwydd yn sgil diffyg hawliau cyfreithiol, diffyg ymwybyddiaeth o hawliau, arferion gwael gan gyflogwyr, neu ydy o ddiwylliant yn gyffredinol? Ble fyddech chi'n rhoi dy reswm am y gwahaniaethu sydd, yn amlwg, yn digwydd?

Thank you very much, and thank you for coming here today. Would you like to put your headset on? Thank you, and thank you for your work. I just want to know: do you believe that the maternity discrimination happens because of a lack of legal rights, a lack of awareness of rights, poor employer practice, or is it the culture or attitudes generally? Where would you place the reason for the discrimination that obviously does happen?

I think at the moment flexible working, specifically linked to maternity discrimination, is seen as some huge revolution—it's something that's just a very extraordinary thing that's happening in business at the moment—when, actually, what it is is about evolution. It is about evolving in a world where technology is facilitating that, and I think it's really—. The focus is really on businesses seeing this in a different way, in a way that will benefit them, and I think mindset shifting—we were in Whitehall last week and they said, 'What you're trying to do, we can put the legislation out there. We can do that. But actually what you want to tackle is the mindsets. That's where the issue lies.'

It's still sitting in—. I think there was a case with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Wales a couple of years ago where a dad successfully sued his employer for having his flexible working request denied, and his colleague, who was in the same position and was a woman, had hers accepted. That was because the sense of that manager was it's a woman's place to look after the children and not a man's. So, the discrimination, it's unbiased. People aren't intending to cause these issues, I don't think. I don't think there's a huge segment of the workforce thinking, 'We're just going to ensure that all women, as soon as they have children, are edged out'. Some are definitely there, but I think there's an education around employers, and I think that's somewhere where there could be some support.

It seems, at the moment, a flexible working request is put in, it's very cloak and dagger, it's very inconsistent—that's what we hear a lot—and then it's there, and then you have an issue at the other end and it's like, 'Well, take it to tribunal'. There's nothing in between facilitating this huge change, this shift that's going on. That's why I think someone here, hopefully, can help give structure, can help actually give structure in terms of by industry. We've gathered some brilliant case studies, but where can you guys help us pool it, and do it by industry? So, James Clarry from Coutts bank, for example, was one guy—he has four kids—and he decided, 'I think we can work better here, so we're going to do it this way'. Productivity within his department was up 30 per cent. Suddenly, the rest of the company started listening. So, it took one individual, but, actually, where is that information going? How can we use those positive examples in a very structured way to empower other employers to do the same? I think that's where the issue is. It's very much, for me, a mindset shift that needs to happen.

Ac rydych chi'n dadlau bod angen i'r newid yna ddigwydd ym meddyliau cyflogwyr. Beth amdanom ni i gyd, hefyd? A ydym ni fel cymdeithas yn barod i newid ein ffordd ni o weithio?

And you argue that that change needs to happen in the minds of employers, but what about us as well? Do we, as a society—are we ready to change our way of working?

I think you're completely right. This is why I stress we're not lambasting companies in any way. It's a 360 degree shift needs to happen. One example that I was given that I thought was really telling was within teaching, which I think we'll come onto later: a woman whose flexible working request was denied—it wasn't denied by the headteacher; it was denied by the parents. So I think there you're seeing a structural issue. It's about educating everybody in that we all need to be flexible with each other. Flexible working is not somebody coming to you in tears at the end of their maternity leave going, 'I can't do this'. It is: 'How can I work better for you? How can you as a business get more out of me? How can you as a parent support that shift?' and, actually, if you are fearing it, which a lot of companies are at the moment, if you ask what we are really focusing on, it's helping, holding the hands of, those who have the fear. One of those things is a trial period; I think you can't argue against facts and figures. Set out, 'How will we test this?' if you are nervous, as an employer. I think the onus—. I think there was an example at Camden council, in London. They've shifted from, actually, it being the onus on the employee to say, 'I would like flexible working'. The employer actually has to prove why it might not work. So, it's little shifts along the way, that this isn't just, 'You've earned your stripes after 26 weeks in employment; we trust you, so we're going to give you this bonus'. It should be part of the fabric of how we work so that then, coming to the bigger issue, those who do need to utilise that, for whatever reasons, regardless of whether it's maternity or not, can do so without discrimination.


Siân, just before you go on, I know Rhianon and then Bethan would like to come in on these points. Rhianon.

Diolch, Chair. In regard to what you've just stated, and the fact that we are here, as legislators in Wales—a small nation, as you are aware—what is it that you would like Government to be able to do? It's all very well saying, 'These are some high-level generic issues'. What is the menu of change that you would like to see implemented?

And, finally, if I may, Chair, in regard to many of the employee rights that have come across from Europe—part-time workers' rights, directives, maternity, paternity, structures that we have implemented—have you got any concerns, or do you see it as an opportunity, when we do leave the European Union, that, for instance, we can strengthen the terms and conditions for, particularly, women who are going on maternity leave?

Yes, so, I would say—. Well, start with what we would like to see, I suppose, on a smaller—well, not a smaller level, but actually the actual change that would be great to see, I think would be some kind of transparency from the beginning. I don't know how you would do that. Like I say, I'm coming to this very much as the woman on the street. I'm not a body in any sense. I'm just somebody who has gone through this. I think, just using my own example, it was very confusing for me, at that point of requesting flexible working, what it actually meant. What does it mean? I would hope that, from a governmental perspective, there could be clarity on that, that there could be, maybe, reporting much like the gender pay gap on how many parent returners there are. I'd be interested to know that, across companies. Is it really being bottlenecked towards parents, or is it being bottlenecked towards carers? How is it actually seen? I think some way—like I said at the beginning—of bridging the gap between what's being said and what's being done.

I think, if you look at most job adverts at the moment, there's something—. There'll be some bland discussion—'We offer flexibility and diversity'—everywhere. I see it everywhere. How can you open the doors on what that actually means? I don't think companies are doing it deliberately a lot of the time, but a good example, which may be a specific one that you guys could maybe draw on, is someone like Deloitte, which actually has a very clear policy on their website. They do it off their own backs at the moment, but is there something that you guys could say, 'Deloitte has got 10 different flexible'—well, they call it agile working—'flexible working examples'? They use words that actually—. My dad, who is my biggest critic in all this—he's very much a man of the 1980s, and he went to work and my mum was at home, and those are the mindsets that we're working with. He actually said to me the other day, 'How are we still talking about just job sharing? Are we not talking about job pairing? Pairing two brilliant minds together?' In times of recession—like British Airways, they put out an e-mail to 30,000 of their employees, saying, 'Okay, we need to cut a few costs. We don't want to lose you guys, but would anyone like to take four weeks off unpaid?' People were like, 'Yes, that's great'. In a time of recession, you're boosting morale through flexible working. So, the onus shouldn't just be on the employee having to ask for this. It should be a structural change. How you do that, I don't know. I just have the examples and know that, obviously, the issue very very much exists.

And just, basically, the wider point: have you got any concerns in regard to—? Or do you see it as an opportunity, in terms of where we are at, in terms of our own legislation around—?

I think it's an opportunity. Somebody highlighted to me the other day Wales & West Housing—I don't know if you've come across them. They are very much on board with—. I think the Ministry of Defence had the same thing, where they call it a commuter hub, the technology around what flexible working—actually, what does it mean? How does it work, the structure of it? And Wales & West Housing, they enforced effective conversations, so they want to—. I think the business benefits are there, but the reasons for declining—the business reasons are so shady, in my opinion. One of them struck me quite significantly. The reason for rejecting a flexible working request would be an inability to recruit additional staff. How would I as an employee know that an employer—? What transparency is there on what they'd done to try and help fill that job share or help fill that extra day? How can you guys make that more transparent in that process? I think there's no way of enforcing that. Like I said, you've either got murky, cloak-and-dagger discussions or a tribunal, where you're breaking communication. Where is the middle ground? At the moment, from my experience, speaking just in terms of what I'm hearing, it's not working, to answer your question.


Jest cwestiwn clou ynglŷn â'r hyn wnaethoch chi ei ddweud reit ar y cychwyn ynglŷn â Whitehall—eich bod chi wedi cael cyfarfod gyda nhw yr wythnos diwethaf. Mae'n swnio tipyn bach i fi fel cop-out eu bod nhw wedi dweud, 'Wel, mae e lot am y diwylliant.' A ydyn nhw wedi siarad â chi ynglŷn â'r newid mewn deddfwriaeth? Achos, yn fy marn i, mae yna lot o ffactorau diwylliant a deddfwriaeth. Felly, rwyf jest eisiau deall—a oedden nhw wedi dweud, 'Ydym, rydym ni am newid deddfwriaeth i wneud y system yn fwy hyblyg', neu—? Beth oedd canlyniad y cyfarfod?

Just a brief question regarding what you said at the start about Whitehall—that you had a meeting with them last week. That sounded a bit like a cop-out to me that they'd said, 'Well, it's a lot to do with the culture.' Have they spoken to you about the change in legislation? Because, in my opinion, there are many cultural and legislative factors at play. So, I just want to understand—have they said, 'Yes, we do want to change legislation to make the system more flexible', or—? What was the outcome of that meeting? 

I felt exactly the same. I'll be really honest—I don't know what I was expecting, and I don't know what I'm expecting, to be honest, here. It's more—this is where we're at and this is what we'd like to do.

When we went into that meeting, Brexit was discussed a lot, obviously. We will be dangling at the bottom of the food chain, regardless of anything; that is obviously the juggernaut going through at the moment. But what they said was, obviously, Theresa May has a manifesto commitment to making all jobs flexible from day one. So, that's there, there is a commitment, and, actually, what they wanted to offer support on was how we could actually push for that to happen. So, there are things being done, there are things in place, they're not just brushing it off, but I think—. The issue they have is that they said—it is maybe a brush-off, I don't know; you know the situation better than me—that once you start talking about employment, it starts to get very, very tricky, and there are bigger issues at play at the moment. For me, what is bigger than discriminating against somebody at work? I don't know. I don't know what their reasons were for that.

We're going back to see them on 15 May with a revised proposal of what we can actually ask from them, in terms of what we can campaign for—very much on a recruitment level. I think the 26 weeks seems to go against this sense of needing structural change for flexible working. Well, no, we should be allowing flexible working from day one; we should be bringing it up in conversations. They're putting on their websites, which we've all seen: we are open to families, flexible working, diversity, we're very inclusive—all of that, but how can we actually make that work? And the 26 weeks doesn't fit with a structural change, because that indicates to me you need to earn your stripes, and it's not a bonus. So, I think that's where we're struggling at the moment. But, yes, maybe a brush-off. Maybe, I don't know. I don't want to get in a pickle.

Diolch yn fawr. Rydw i’n hoff iawn o’r term 'job pairing', ac, wrth gwrs, mae gan y Cynulliad yma—ni fel Aelodau Cynulliad—drafodaeth yn mynd ymlaen ar hyn o bryd ynglŷn ag efallai agor i fyny posibiliadau hynny. Felly, pan ydym yn sôn am beth fedrwn ni ei wneud yn fan hyn, buasem ni’n gallu dangos yr arweiniad yna, mae’n debyg, drwy ddod â gweithio allan yn union beth rydym ni'n ei feddwl efo gweithio’n hyblyg—ein bod ni yn y fan hyn yn cychwyn symud lawr y ffordd yna.

Roeddwn i jest eisiau gwybod—. Rydych chi wedi bod yn cael rhieni’n rhannu straeon efo chi. Pa themâu ydych chi’n eu gweld? Beth ydy’r prif broblemau sydd yn dod yn sgil y wybodaeth sydd gennych chi gan rieni eraill?

Thank you very much. I'm very fond of the term 'job pairing', and, of course, this Assembly—we as Assembly Members—has a discussion going on at present about maybe opening up those possibilities. So, when we're talking about what we can do here, we would be able to show that leadership, I think, by working out what exactly we mean by flexible working—that we here are starting on that journey.

I just wanted to know—. You've had parents telling you their stories. What themes do you see emerging? What are the main problems that are emerging from the information that you've had from other parents?


I would say the first one is the reason for rejecting a flexible working request—it's set up to fail. It seems that they're set up to say 'no' very easily. Inconsistency is another one. Somebody will have it if they work for James Clarry at Coutts bank—luckily, in his department, he believes differently, someone else won't. So, there's inconsistency and a lack of transparency across what it actually means. The biggest one was the reason I had my flexible working request denied: 'If we do it for you, we'll have to do it for everyone, opening the floodgates.' My question has always been: let's try opening the floodgates, let's ease them open. I don't understand the issue with that.

Then there is a bigger issue, which the Equality and Human Rights Commission have highlighted a number of times, which is being given flexible working but then you're expected to do more for less. So, those five days go to four, but you're still doing five days in four for less money and made to feel lucky for being in that position and you will never progress because you feel lucky to be in that position. There is no way forward from that point. And when we're talking about flexible working, lots of people are doing flexible working, it's just not working, and that's actually, I think, the issue.

The bigger issue for me, which is why I campaign with my husband, is that this is seen as a female issue. That's our biggest uphill struggle, because I think one in 10 flexible working requests are accepted for men and four in 10 for women, so it's much like that PricewaterhouseCoopers example—why are we seeing that the burden of childcare should just solely rest on female shoulders? The things we're hearing is that it's emasculating for men to ask to go on extended paternity leave. They don't feel supported in doing that, they fear for their career prospects, so that side of the coin is huge. And there are so many elements to this, and then the one that comes underneath it all is childcare. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think we have the second highest childcare costs in Europe, after Switzerland, and they earn more money than us. So, really, that is the biggest barrier to continuing to work. So, those are the themes that we've heard. I think there is a lack of understanding about what flexible working means. It's seen as something that an employer has to do for an employee, when, actually, there are so many different ways of doing it. Well, obviously, there are staggered hours, compressed hours, part-time, job sharing and V working, which is something that I hadn't heard of. Does everyone know what V working is?

V working is, I think, a big thing that could shift things. It's simply easing back into work after something big, and understanding that childbirth is a biological thing that will affect you mentally and physically. It's not just a 'nice to have'; it is something big and, actually, you will want to return full-time, perhaps, in six months or seven months, but within these six months, you will need two to three days, just to ease back in. Because that is the most vulnerable point and that is when most women get made redundant—at that point—that vulnerable point when you can't fight. And when you ask about trends, that's what I hear. Of those 54,000 women—and I've spoken to employment lawyers: it is a lot more than 54,000 because of all the gagging orders—what I hear is, 'I can't fight at that point.' So, that, I think, is the weak spot.

Beth am ansawdd y cyngor a'r wybodaeth sydd ar gael i fenywod beichiog, mamau, a thadau am eu hawliau yn y gwaith?

What about the quality of the advice and information that's available to pregnant women, mothers, and fathers about their rights in the workplace?

I think a really good example here is Barclays. They have a staying-in-touch app. It's a very small thing, but it just ensures that their employee can stay in touch on their maternity leave whenever they want, checking in—they can check in as much as they want, but there's no pressure to do so. But that company has recognised that there isn't enough information out there to help you navigate at that point where you go off on maternity leave, have a baby and then are put back at your desk, ready to go, as you were before, when a huge biological shift has happened.

For me, like I said, there's one extreme, which is Government advice on how to—. The actual mechanics of getting a flexible working request through—'This is how you do it, this is the way it is. These are the reasons businesses can say "no" ', and then there's tribunal, as I said. It feels like two extremes and, actually, we need some hand-holding in-between on how to navigate that, which the Equality and Human Rights Commission are doing brilliantly, but I thought that was an interesting point. We were talking earlier, actually, before coming in, that a lot of these things that are trying to give transparency, and trying to do the right thing, are just being wheeled out as PR puff pieces. That is the biggest frustration. One of the things we're trying to do with Flex Appeal is that as soon as a company signs the Equality and Human Rights Commission's Working Forward pledge, it's a tick-box exercise, and then they can say, 'We're really great, we're so diverse.' And I highlight that on my channels to 150,000 people and, inevitably, I've put them up there saying they're doing these things, and then there'll be 40 people behind the scenes or coming on going, 'They're definitely not.' So, there's a huge gap between using this information, something as brilliant as the Working Forward pledge, for PR purposes—what does that actually mean?

And I think Timewise Jobs, obviously, are great. They're doing a lot in terms of ensuring that there's a job site for flexible work. They've negotiated the flexible working at the start so that you do not have to do that; those conversations have been made. But, yes, I don't think that the quality of advice is there, but I do think, if there is any way that these case studies could be made more official—. I think the Women's Equality Network has just launched a manifesto yesterday for women and girls. That's what I'd love to see more of—just information that can be digested to help employers and employees understand the bit between negotiating flexible working and taking them to court.  


Okay. Thanks, Anna. We'll move on, then, to Rhianon Passmore and some further questions. 

Thank you very much. In regard to those in receipt of public money, obviously, there are more levers in our control. So, do you think, in that regard, that there should be more requirements, when businesses are receiving public funding, for that ability not just to put the PR four or five bullet points on there, but to actually be held to account and held to a framework around flexible working? 

Yes. Coming back to transparency, I think if you've got public money, then there needs to be some transparency on how it's being used. I don't fully understand the question, sorry. 

So, for instance, if I was giving a grant to a company and that enabled you to either get a big contract or, say, 50 employees et cetera, therefore you are in receipt of public funding, and therefore you should be a champion. So, there'll be different criteria, in a sense, for the public sector to be able to be held to account, because it's just easier than with the private sector in terms of cultural change. So, would you agree with that? That's the question. 

Yes, I would agree with that, but I don't know how practical that would be in terms of timing and funding. I don't know. I don't know where it comes—whether the education and the transparency needs to be across the board. If Deloitte are being very clear, why would no-one else want to do that? But then I realise they have 75,000 employees and they're a massive company. So, to answer your question, 'yes'.  

I think, in terms of cultural change, it's just those levers that are in our control, instead of those more statutory mechanisms to be able to hold people to account. Thank you.

In regard to the differences between small businesses and large companies, would you recognise that there is potentially more difficulty attached to small businesses operating flexibly or not? 

Yes. The experience I've had, I would say, if there's been any pushback against what we're trying to do here, it has definitely been from small businesses. The struggle is big, I think, in terms of, obviously, having two or three employees and two going off on maternity leave. But I'm increasingly hearing positive stories of—. There's a good support network out there for small businesses and helping them navigate this. Core hours has been something just in terms of the flexible working element, and I'll talk about the maternity side of it in a bit, but core hours has definitely worked. I think a lack of organisation has been the main issue around small businesses. They haven't got the time to wade through all of the bumph that they need to get through to work out how to manage maternity leave.


So, do you see that there could be more of a role for other agencies or Government, in that regard, to be able to do that type of hand-holding?


Bearing in mind, obviously, that some fledgling businesses are going to be very dependent on their workforce, and, in a sense, it creates that chicken-and-egg situation. So, you see that there is a role, then, for an agency or Government to be able to do some of the heavy lifting around that.

Absolutely. There needs to be some—. I think the frustration is that, yes, there needs to be some support in what flexible—well, I say 'flexible working'—what creative job solutions look like across the board, public sector, private sector, small business, large business, and leading with these examples, and having almost ambassadors for each element who can actually help educate and empower other people within those situations. At the moment, it's just a quagmire of uncertainty. 

So, bearing in mind our position is that we're very backward in Europe in this regard, do you think then that there should be, in a sense, more state intervention and more legislation around this issue so that it isn't so voluntary, and therefore, that we are actually making a real definitive statement?

Definitely. I mean, that is the ultimate aim of what we're doing and, I imagine, on a larger scale, what companies want to do. I think that's the thing. I don't even think it's going to be a 'nice to have' for companies at any point; they're going to start having to do this because talent is going to go elsewhere. I think that's the bigger issue that they're going to face. I almost think there will be a point where there won't need to be intervention, because the minute that I highlighted Deloitte, for example, I got lots of calls from other companies, going, 'Oh, we're doing great things too', and it's a competitive thing. As long as the mindset shifts, it's going to shift that as well, but if there is legislation in place to clarify that, 100 per cent.  

And, finally, in regard to one of the issues that the UK is also very heavily involved in, which is zero-hours working, do you see that there is any overlap or concern for companies saying 'Well, we offer flexible working because we offer zero-hours contracts', in terms of what that means for the low-paid sectors across the UK?

Yes. The low-paid sectors, again, in terms of pushback—we get a lot of pushback and flexible working is seen as a middle-class issue. I think what we're trying to push, hand in hand with Timewise, is that predictive flexibility—a zero-hours contract doesn't count—what actually does this look like from a human perspective, in real life, not just words on paper? So, yes, I think that that is a big issue: people just assuming that a zero-hours contract is flexible. No. They end up—. Like you say, on a Sunday you get your rota and you're working 9 a.m. on Monday. That doesn't help anyone and that will push people out of the workforce. So, yes, that's definitely something that's an issue. 

Anna, before we move on to Jack Sargeant and some more questioning, do you think that advertising jobs as flexible by default would be useful, and if so, how would that work in practice?

Yes. Well, at the moment, Timewise say that 8.7 per cent of jobs that are more than £20,000 a year are advertised as flexible, so that's not many when, actually, the demand is incredibly high. So, it's like we were saying earlier. I think, actually, 87 per cent of millennials and gen zedders are now looking for flexible working over a salary, so I think there will be a point where they won't have a choice. I think we're getting to that point and you have to choose, as a business—and this is the way we're trying to communicate this—you're either leading, you're a pioneer, or you're going to be at the back. And so, it's better to get on board with this sooner rather than later, and how can you help companies to get on board so they're not at the back? So, I think the tricky thing, and the thing I hear most, in terms of trends, is that in the interview process, if it's not made clear—and I say 'clear', not just saying, 'We're open to flexible working'—what does that look like? What specifically? Is it compressed hours? Is it part-time? What actually is flexible working? How will that work for that role? And, actually, at what point do you discuss that? I think that's a very big barrier to progressing within that interview process. A lot of people I hear from say that it's even before it gets to maternity discrimination, and I've definitely faced this; it's removing your wedding ring before going into a meeting, thinking, 'If they think I'm of child-bearing age, I might not get this job and the guy that comes after me might, because of the way that everything's set up'. 

So, I think there needs to be, as I keep saying, clarity, transparency, on what—. Like with Deloitte, it's clear what their agile working policies are—they're not hiding behind it—and I think, actually, if you aren't flexible and you can't be flexible, there needs to be clarity on that, too. A lot of people get to the third interview and then it's a five-day-a-week job even though it was put down as flexible, and they can't make that work, so what's the point in going through that process? So, it's at what point and what juncture—? Actually, I think, the only way to do that, to answer your question, is to have the flexible working set-up specifically stated and advertised with that role: 'This might look like a job share; would you be able to come to this position with somebody as a pair?' Like I say, not a job share but a job pair—I didn't coin that; it's by Chris Whitehouse, my dad. [Laughter.] 'Come to that with somebody and present yourselves', instead of, 'We're open to flexible working', which, again, is just murky and unclear and leaves people disappointed. And, yes, as I said, I don't want to see anyone taking their wedding ring off before going into an interview.


Thanks, Chair, and welcome, Anna. Just before we go into the questions, I want to just pick up on a couple of things that you've mentioned throughout the session today. One of the first things you said was that you weren't a public body and you're not an organisation—you're from the streets. I actually really respect that. I think that's actually something that we need more of: real-life experience influencing Government policy and legislation. So, well done for that. And it is a huge culture change. We sit here every week and we all come to the same conclusion that a mass culture change is needed, and I think what you're doing with your blog and Instagram and Twitter is really helping towards that. So, really, again, well done and keep up the good work.

Just picking up some points that Rhi and John said, are there any examples of good practice from other countries that Wales and the UK can look at to pinch ideas from, really? 

Not specifically. I think the reason that—. It's quite interesting; I've got the two sides of it. I used to work in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and I'm half Dutch, and I came here, and actually I think that influenced a lot of this campaign drive, because I used to work for a company, Tommy Hilfiger, in Amsterdam, and it was a managerial decision that the minute that the New York or London offices would be calling in, saying, 'We need this meeting at 7 o'clock', my manager would own it and say, 'No, we'll do it tomorrow; it's fine', and so, it was that ownership and that education, and that influenced everybody within. So, I think that's from a personal perspective.

I think that, in terms of ensuring that this isn't seen as a female issue, Iceland is brilliant—the 'use it or lose it' policy. I think that's something that—. The minute that this is not just seen as a 'mummy wanting to see more of her Weetabix-smattered child' issue, the minute we can get away from that, we actually fix so many elements. The surprise—like with that example I gave earlier of that guy, and I'll give you his full name: Erik Pietzka from PwC—that he would fight to want that time with his child—. In an ideal scenario—. In Amsterdam, I worked in three or four different places—Tommy Hilfiger obviously included—and there was never a question of what people were doing in those hours. And I think that James Clarry, from Coutts bank—his big point, which I'll continue to drive home, was that the reason he implemented flexible working—he drew inspiration a lot from Scandinavian countries—was so that he could see his secretary get engaged, instead of disengaged, from her boyfriend. It's a really simple point, but it takes it away from being a parent issue. And he then said at a conference, 'I went to her wedding last year', and he said, 'You start to see people as humans'.

In Scandinavian countries—. My boss used to have a 'leaving loudly' policy: 'I'm off to pick up Joshua'; 'I'm off to the pub'. It's actually bringing these human elements into the workplace and, actually, in turn, that feeds into productivity. That feeds into boosting morale. That feeds into people seeing individuals as individuals. I think that's something that the Scandinavian countries do very well. They see: 'What are your unique needs as a person?', 'How can we work with you, not against you?', and 'How can we do this for the greater good of the business?' So, yes, I would say that Iceland is a good example, and obviously the mentality in Holland. They're not perfect, but—. In the UK, just quickly, like I said, I think Wales & West Housing are great, the Ministry of Justice are a really great case study in how things are progressing, and Johnson & Johnson—90 per cent of their first-time mums return to work. So, that's more UK based, but, yes, I think we look towards the Scandinavian countries. 


Thank you for that. Just moving on, you mentioned a job site for flexible working that's out there now. What are the issues faced by mothers when searching for jobs just after having a child, and is there suitable careers advice out there? There is this job site, but does that hold careers advice, or is that simply just a job site for flexible working? Is there anything out there at all? 

Timewise Jobs is the only—. There are a few out there, but it's the only one that has a real breadth of jobs, and it's certainly not covering every avenue. I think there is a vulnerability around that moment where a mother is made redundant on maternity leave and then tries to get back into the workforce. That is a very difficult period to navigate, and I don't think, at the moment, that there are enough—. The demand is there; the supply is not there—that is, I think, the only way to really answer your question. But Timewise Jobs have even admitted this. We're campaigning and constantly trying to get people to understand what flexible working means from the get-go, but I think that shift in only being allowed to apply for it internally after 26 weeks is something that could be changed, ideally. 

Yes, I fully agree with that. Just coming back to the point where you campaigned with your husband, I think that's great, again, because it isn't just the mother's issue; there are two people in that relationship—there are two parents. How could fathers or partners be better supported to take responsibility for their childcare and take their paternity leave and so on?

Again, it comes down to mindsets that are so entrenched and I think—. There was a guy I spoke to—and I don't know whether it's relevant, but I thought you might want a few case studies. He is one of our followers, he is 43, he has two children, he's called Stuart Whyte. He said that he decided to stay at home. His wife was in banking and he said: 'I tried to get a job that was flexible. I felt that when I spoke to recruitment agencies and mentioned the words "part-time", this was inconvenient, would be lower paid and would need repeated justification on my part—firstly to gain an interview and then to win over a potential employer'. He also noted, 'If you want to spend more time at home or on other projects, your only real option is to make a big sacrifice and change track to a lower paid and less secure role.' He felt that there was a lot of discrimination around him, as a father, choosing to work this way.

So, again, that stat: one in 10 male flexible working requests goes through; four in 10 female. Why is there that difference? Why are we still seeing that women should carry the burden of childcare, when dads want to dad? I think that's the thing. It's a shift. Some people say, 'Well, why won't you get your wife to do that?' and that's what you hear so much. That's what I hear a lot of, because in top tier management, their wives—in the experience that I've heard back from, obviously, here—are at home looking after the children, and they remain in their jobs and they don't understand what it would actually physically mean to allow both parents to parent. 

Good morning. What are your views on the proposal by the Welsh Government to provide 30 hours of free childcare for working parents of three to four-year-olds? 

Is it the right age? Does that intervention come in soon enough?

It comes back to that really vulnerable point, I think, which is the returning to work, and that is when you need the support on all levels. 

Sooner, yes. Like I said about the V working, that's on the employment side: a gradual integration back into work, just ensuring that everybody's on board, but also with childcare. At age three, the feedback we get is that it's too late: 'I'm out of the workforce, I'm gone'. And, actually, the transparency around it again: what does it mean? Lots of nurseries couldn't do it, couldn't make it work. I think the extra funding meant about 40p per child, which was nothing. So, it was a lovely, brilliant, well-intentioned idea, but, actually, it's too little, too late. And I think, yes, if we really want to crack down on maternity discrimination—but also in terms of the PR angle, which a lot of companies are interested in, to close that gender pay gap—you need to look at that junction. And that junction is where women are flooding out of the workforce. And, like I said, it's certainly not that 54,000 figure—it is double that, from talking to employment lawyers across the board. So, yes, I think that they could be sooner. 


Okay, thank you. And what about parents in low-paid causal and precarious work, like teaching assistants, carers? Do they experience maternity discrimination in a different way?

Yes. Like I said, the issue I have is, with my face and my voice—I try and speak like the Queen occasionally—it gets seen as a middle-class issue. And this really is not. What we are really trying very, very hard to fight for is for it to be, 'How does it look across industry, across sector'? I think the US do something brilliant, the Schedules That Work Act 2017, which really looked to tackle predictive flexibility, zero-hours contracts, being told on a Sunday night that you've got to work Monday morning and you have two children—I mean, how does that work? Timewise have just piloted—. I don't know if you've heard of the scheme they're doing at the Birmingham Children's Hospital in nursing. That's a useful thing maybe to look into. It started in January this year, where they are trying to do term-based rotas and rostering. So, they are really looking into the needs, and this is really—. If you ask what the big plan is for Flex Appeal, it's to look at individuals as individuals with individual needs and how they can work harder for you by, obviously, being given a little bit of flexibility. So, they're piloting that across the Birmingham Children's Hospital for six months to see how productivity is, how it worked. Nurses are there, they need to save lives, so it's a big pilot. But I think that's definitely the way things should go in terms of predictive flexibility.

And tell me—something you said earlier about your work in London; you said that you're going back in May with some proposals.

Would you mind outlining what some of those proposals might be for this committee? Thank you.

So, we realised, we found out, that, by 2030, one in five UK workers will be mothers. So, they're saying that, 'It's not on our list of things to do', and we're saying, 'I think it's going to have to be'. Twenty-five per cent of families will be single-parent families, so there'll be increasing pressure, bottlenecked towards, actually, it, like I say, not being in terms of, 'You've earned your stripes, you've done your 26 weeks. This is your bonus for working hard for us.' It needs to be structural and, actually, how will that look? So, what we are going back to is examples—what we've said to you guys—with case studies from our side, James Clarry being one, right the way through to the one-person small business. This is what we've gathered from just being an influencer and listening to people. How can you help us just make this more official and ensure that it's accessible, that it's transparent, to help other businesses move forward? It shouldn't take, hopefully, too much of their time, but we're actually saying, 'We'll do the leg work. How can you help us get it out there?' And, training of management—that's again a bottleneck. How can you train people at that moment of employment, that moment of interview? How can you train people up to see the benefits that we were saying earlier, and make it official instead of just Googling and 'productivity' coming up, and what does it mean per industry? But, yes, we're going back in again. We won't stop. And we're going to be campaigning outside Parliament in July, asking where Theresa May is with her manifesto commitment: 'Where are you with that? It was nice to say, but what are you doing?'

Okay. If there was one piece of legislation that you could bring in then that you think would support you that the Welsh Government could bring in, what would it be? 

It would be the case studies, to be honest. If there was some—. That's not specifically legislation, but I'm just thinking of a piece for the jigsaw puzzle. If there was transparency on—. If you could make companies accountable, specifically, for how many parents leave the workforce, like with the gender pay gap reporting, I think that would be just a really simple thing that could be implemented. Let's just see the lay of the land, what is the issue, and I think, then, again, you start changing mindsets. The gender pay gap reporting alone, the transparency on that, isn't going to shift things; it won't do anything. But it's highlighting an issue, and then people start to shift their mindsets. So, I think if you could somehow make companies accountable for how many of that 55,000, or however many are out there, being made redundant on maternity leave, how many are in your company, and I think that is when you'll start to see change.


Okay. Anna, could I just ask you about self-employed mothers? Because we've heard in evidence that we've taken that some mothers want flexible working but are unable to get those jobs, obtain those jobs, so they then become self-employed as a result. Do you have any knowledge of that sort of situation from the input that you receive?

Yes, that is the biggest issue, actually: people jumping ship from employment into self-employment for the wrong reasons, and ending up in a far worse position. We're trying to educate people on holding firm, trying to help Government bodies to support employers in ensuring that women aren't just having to jump ship and do something. I think, nine times out of 10, when a mother sets up a new business, it will be on maternity leave, and that is the crunch point where most redundancies are made. So, yes, it's an issue. It's definitely something we hear a lot of—the struggle to make that then work. It's not something you can put under the carpet either. I think 14.2 per cent of workers are self-employed. So, are they self-employed because they have no other option, or are they self-employed because that was a choice? And I think that's a word that we keep coming back to, 'choice'. Any pushback we've actually had has been a lot of women saying, 'But I don't want to work' and 'Why are you making me feel bad about not working?' I'm like, 'No, no no'. I don't want to force anyone to do anything; I need there to be choice. I think, yes, there's a definite issue, and I don't have the stats on that, so I think some kind of governmental reporting on how many people are actually lurching from maternity discrimination into setting up a new business on maternity leave and actually floundering—. I think that would be an interesting area to look into, because there's nothing I can find out there at the moment.

Ie, rydw i jest eisiau gofyn ynglŷn â, efallai, swyddi sydd yn cael eu gweld fel rhai sydd ddim yn hyblyg. Rydych chi wedi sôn am nyrsys, ond mae fy mam i yn athrawes ac fe wnaeth hi gael fy chwaer i pan oedd hi'n 47, ac, yn sicr, nid oedd hi eisiau mynd yn ôl i'r gwaith yn llawn amser, ond nid oedd gyda hi opsiwn ond mynd yn ôl i'r gwaith. A ydych chi wedi siarad efo athrawon sydd eisiau bod yn fwy hyblyg ond sydd ddim yn gallu? Rydym ni wedi clywed tystiolaeth i'r pwyllgor yma—fel rydych chi wedi ei ddweud gynnau, am sector arall, rydw i'n credu—lle mae staff, efallai, yn iawn gyda fe, ond y rhieni yn rebelio yn erbyn rhannu athro yn y dosbarth, achos maen nhw'n meddwl bod hynny'n mynd i effeithio'n negyddol ar addysg eu plant, er y gallwch chi ddweud bod hynny'n mynd i effeithio'n bositif ar addysg eu plant, i gael dau athro neu athrawes yn y dosbarth. Felly, a ydych chi wedi clywed unrhyw beth gan athrawon? A ydych chi wedi clywed unrhyw beth yn benodol o bobl yng Nghymru, efallai?

Yes, I just wanted to ask about posts that are seen as non-flexible. You've mentioned nurses, but my mother is a teacher and had my sister when she was 47, and definitely didn't want to go back full time, but had no option but to do so. Have you spoken to teachers who want to be more flexible but can't be? We've heard evidence to this committee—as you said earlier on about another sector—where staff are perhaps okay with it, but parents rebel against sharing a teacher in a class because they think that will impact negatively on their children's education, although you could say that that will have a positive impact, having two or more teachers. So, have you heard anything specifically from teachers and from people in Wales, perhaps?

Yes. A lot of our followers knew I was coming today, and we've done a little bit of collating of information, just to give you some idea of who we're talking to. We've divided it by the UK, Wales and Scotland, and the majority—. When I put out a post saying I was coming here today, we asked for people to mention where they're from and the issues they're facing. So, 86 per cent across the UK, Wales and Scotland said that they would choose flexible working over, I don't know, a free fruit bowl and travel expenses—whatever is being offered. And within Wales specifically, 71 per cent of those who felt discriminated against had been teachers—71 per cent. And I hear mostly from teachers, I would say. It's a real crunch point. So, absolutely, that is where I'm hearing most issues. 


To the point where, yes, it's going to tribunal, but also where it's not against, like I said, the headteacher, often—it's entrenched further down towards the parents, who possibly have flexible working and won't allow that elsewhere, almost. So, it runs deep. We spoke to Jonathan Simons, who has a paper published by the Association of School and College Leaders, and he basically said that schools just can't—that we can't afford to keep losing teachers at this rate. I think, in a profession that is 73 per cent female, it is a devastating waste of talent to see the biggest group of leavers—6,000 women aged 30 to 39. And I spoke to him because of the sense that I was getting that teaching was a huge issue, and he confirmed: he said that the majority of people at the top are men because this flexibility's not there and they don't know how it can work. And I get it from an employer's perspective as well. But it is working, and there is a great company that's set up called Return To Teach, which I think might be useful to look into. She is providing an employment platform to bring together job shares or pairs, to bring together—exactly what I was saying I was hoping that this committee would be able to do on a bigger scale—bring together individuals who are doing it successfully and how they've navigated that, just helping hold each other's hands to move forward, because 6,000 last year were just unable to continue. So, yes, there is a bottleneck, and it's definitely an issue.

Wel, os byddem ni'n gallu cael y ffigyrau rydych chi wedi'u cael, byddai hynny'n dda i ni fel pwyllgor i allu defnyddio hynny fel cyfiawnhad i rai o'r argymhellion byddwn ni'n eu rhoi i'r Llywodraeth. Rydw i'n credu y byddai hynny'n ddefnyddiol iawn. Ond yr ail gwestiwn oedd gen i oedd: rydym ni wedi clywed gan bobl sydd wedi rhoi tystiolaeth o'r blaen i'r pwyllgor y dylem ni gael rhyw fath o ddata ar gyfraddau cadw staff sydd yn mynd yn ôl i'r gwaith ar ôl mamolaeth, i weld pa mor hir maen nhw'n aros yn y swydd ar ôl dod nôl, achos beth roeddem ni'n clywed yw eu bod nhw'n dod nôl am gyfnod, ond wedyn efallai nad yw'n ddigon hyblyg, nid yw'r rheolwr yn ddigon amyneddgar, a wedyn maen nhw'n gadael y swydd. Felly, i gael yr ystadegau yna—a fyddai hynny'n rhywbeth y byddech chi'n meddwl fyddai'n helpu?

Well, if we could have the figures that you have, that would be good for us as a committee to be able to use that as justification for some of the recommendations that we will submit to the Government. I think that would be very useful. My second question was: we've heard from people who have given evidence previously to the committee that we should have some sort of data on the rates of retention for staff who return to work after maternity to see how long they stay in the job after they return, because what we've heard is they come back for a period, but then perhaps it's not flexible enough, the manager isn't patient enough, and then they leave that job. So, to have those statistics—is that something you think would help?

Definitely, yes. I think, if we can somehow lift the lid on how this is actually manifesting itself, how it's working—and I'll keep coming back to that new word, V working—

We do it here, actually. I've used it myself with my staff: a phased return to work. I just don't know what the 'V'—. What does 'V' stand for? 

I don't know what the 'V' stands for—

It's in HR magazine, so I'll blame them. 

We'll have to start calling it 'V' then, to be cool. 

Down with the kids. So, I think V working, or phased return to work, is something that needs to be talked about as not a negative, but as an essential, and that, again, it translates to men as well as women. I think that's another issue. But I'm very, very happy to pull together—. Like I said, of the e-mails, the 3,470-odd that we got, a lot were from Wales, and a lot were facing issues within teaching and the public sector. 

Janet Finch-Saunders with, I think, what's probably our final question. 

Just on the recent gender pay gap data, many firms—some firms—and some public sector organisations print their data about their gender pay gap. There was a feeling in evidence we've taken prior to today that there's a lack of transparency about that. Some don't publish it, so there's a question there: do you believe that it's vitally important that they actually publish that? That's my first question.

The second part to that, really, is: is the figure of 250 employees—? Some of our witnesses said that one—you should publish your gender pay gap data, really, about one employee as much as 250 employees, and some said 100. So, I just wonder what your views were on the actual information about gender pay gap data and how it's published by companies and, indeed, the public sector.


I think, in an ideal world, the reporting would be from one plus. I think, obviously, realistically, at this point, they're edging in and trying to start a conversation. I imagine that it will hopefully progress. I would hope to see it progress to one upwards. I think the thing that has been so powerful about that reporting is the ability, then, for somebody like the Equality and Human Rights Commission to come in and say, 'Okay, so here's your issue; here's a solution', and bringing those two elements together. That's what I hope to see more of. I'm not saying it's not important to start reporting from whether you've got one employee upwards, but I think the more important thing is, actually, how can we bridge that—

We've got to start somewhere, and we've started with 250 employees up. That's the starting block. But great; it's out there. Like I said with reporting on how many parental leavers there are, we've got the information, but transparency alone isn't going to shift anything. What the Equality and Human Rights Commission are pushing so clearly is that their primary way of solving this is with flexible working, and this is how to do it. There's so much practical advice on how to do that, but how can you, as a committee, facilitate that, actually? We know the issue is there, and actually I do want to see every company stood there with their knickers down, but I would like to know how that can actually be fixed and what you're doing in terms of positive steps to fixing that. I think there's a lot of talk, and I just want to know where the action is, and that's actually what I'm hearing: 'It's all being put out there, we've done these reports, people are talking, but where is the action?' So, I don't know the answer to that, but I am hoping you will. 

Well, there you are; you've given us some food for thought and focus for our discussions, Anna. Thanks very much. That brings this evidence session to an end. You will be sent a transcript to check for factual accuracy, and thank you very much for coming along today.

Thank you so much. Thank you, everyone.

4. Papurau i'w Nodi
4. Papers to Note

The next item on our agenda today is papers to note. We have two papers. Paper 1 is a letter from the Chair of the Finance Committee in relation to the timetable for the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Bill and paper 2 is a letter to the Chair of the Children, Young People and Education Committee in relation to the Welsh Government's childcare offer, as part of the committee's inquiry into pregnancy, maternity and work. Are Members content to note the papers? Yes? Okay. Thank you very much.

5. Cynnig o dan Reol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) i Benderfynu Gwahardd y Cyhoedd o Weddill y Cyfarfod
5. Motion under Standing Order 17.42(vi) to Resolve to Exclude the Public from the Remainder of the Meeting


bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).


that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).

Cynigiwyd y cynnig.

Motion moved.

That takes us, then, to item 5, which is a motion under Standing Order 17.42 to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Is committee content so to do? Okay. Thank you very much. We'll move into private session.

Derbyniwyd y cynnig.

Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 12:03.

Motion agreed.

The public part of the meeting ended at 12:03.

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