Election 2019, Your Questions Answered: What are parties saying on childcare?

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With polling day fewer than four weeks away, families are asking just what the parties are planning to do about childcare.

Here, we answer a selection of readers' questions on family benefits and finances.

What will each party do to help full-time working parents with financially crippling childcare costs? - Craig Harris, Newry

Both Labour and the Liberal Democrats have promised extra money to support the parents of young children.

Labour said it would spend £1bn on opening 1,000 new early years Sure Start centres in England. It is part of a £4.5bn package, which also includes 30 hours' free childcare for all two to four-year-olds.

The Liberal Democrats are promising working families free childcare for children from the age of nine months. They said their £14.6bn policy is "an investment in the country's future", and would be funded by tax changes.

All three and four-year-olds in England are currently entitled to 570 free hours per year - typically taken as 15 hours per week across 38 weeks (the school year). Some working families are eligible for 30 hours free childcare, The Conservatives say they have increased the funding and quality of childcare provision while in government.

Does the year's maternity pay also apply to fathers? - Andy Barnard, Maidenhead

Statutory maternity pay (SMP) is paid for 39 weeks. For the first six weeks it is paid at 90% of their average weekly earnings before tax. The following 33 weeks is paid at at £148.68 per week or 90% of their average weekly earnings, whichever is the lower.

But some employers offer maternity pay that is more than the statutory rate.

Shared parental leave allows parents - after birth or adoption - to share up to 50 weeks of leave and up to 37 weeks of pay between them.

Paternity leave is a period of either one or two consecutive weeks that fathers or partners can take off from work to care for their baby or child. The father or partner can receive statutory paternity pay of £148.68 per week, provided they have worked for their company for 26 weeks.

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What are the parties' policies on flexible working for parents? Laura Beasley, Horsham

At the moment, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working - not just parents or carers. But workers need to have been with the same employer for at least 26 weeks in a row to be eligible for it.

Labour recently reconfirmed a pledge made in February to give workers the right to choose their working hours from their first day in a job.

But business lobby group the CBI said that needing government approval to set working patterns could create extra levels of bureaucracy and be expensive.

Other parties are yet to outline their positions on flexible working.

Lots of companies allow part-time working. Can MPs stand as a job-share? - Deborah

Only individuals can stand as parliamentary candidates.

However, the issue of whether MPs should share a job has been discussed in Parliament.

In October 2019, Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, announced she was seeking to recruit the UK's first "locum MP" to provide maternity cover for her.

The person chosen would cover constituency work over seven months and would not sit in the Commons or vote.

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Is any party going to lift the two-child limit on tax credits and benefits? Emma Enefer, Barton-upon-Humber

The two-child limit means that most parents can only receive the child element of Universal Credit and tax credits for the first two children they have. It does not apply if the third, or subsequent children, were born before April 2017.

Most parties haven't released their manifestos, which outline their plans for the country.

But, at the SNP's election campaign launch, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would end the two-child limit.

Labour has previously said it would end it too. The Conservative Party has previously claimed that ending the benefit cap would cost £190m a year. But, this figure is sourced from a parliamentary report, which says this is "likely to be an overestimate".

Regarding child benefit, there is no limit to how many children for whom parents can claim.

As a woman born in the 1950s, I would like to know which party would give us the better chance of getting back our pension soon? Anne Ashworth, Stockport

The state pension age for women was increased to 65 in 2018, a move critics say was unfair. They argue those born in the 1950s were not given enough time to make adjustments after the qualifying age was raised from 60.

Campaign group Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi) wants a "bridging" pension, to cover the gap from the age of 60 until their state pension is paid. Another group, Backto60, is calling for a repayment of all the pensions women born in the 1950s would have got, had they been able to retire earlier

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would look into the issue, during the Conservative leadership campaign. Labour has already pledged to extend pension credit to the women affected.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon previously called on the government to reverse the policy. The Liberal Democrats voted in favour of a motion at their party conference that would see the women "properly compensated".

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