Letter: How to balance work and children

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Sir: I read with interest the coverage of the Family Policies Studies Centre report that one in five women born in the past 30 years will remain childless ("The declining appeal of motherhood", 11 April). The issues surrounding women's choice not to have children are extremely complex. However, one important factor is that many women do not believe it is viable to combine a successful career with having children.

Unfortunately, this concern is a reality for too many working women in Britain. If employers are to recruit and retain the highest quality employees, they can do much to address this concern practically and conceptually. Women need not only access to affordable, high-quality childcare, but also flexible employment arrangements which will allow them to combine their work and family responsibilities.

I am glad to say that we found from our third-year review that Opportunity 2000 employers are increasingly introducing such measures. For example, 60 per cent of members now offer flexible working policies for both women and men, while 67 per cent offer paternity leave and 55 per cent offer advice on childcare facilities. And that is not all; the provision of more attractive working conditions of this kind have helped our members to enjoy clear bottom-line benefits.

Yet such arrangements are still not available for the great majority and employers alone cannot be left to address the issue. There must be partnership with government; indeed, Employers For Childcare was formed mainly from Opportunity 2000 members and is lobbying for a national agenda on childcare.

If our members are showing the way, there are still many employers yet to address this issue. We must now make a concerted effort to convince potential parents that it is possible to balance work and children.

Yours faithfully,

ELSPETH HOWE

Chairman, Opportunity 2000

London, W1

13 April

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