Sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector – Report published- International Development Committee

This Committee agreed early in this Parliament to draw up a comprehensive re-examination of progress taken to tackle sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector.

Our focus is the aid recipients who become victims and survivors of abuse at the hands of individuals working in the sector. This inquiry will consider the support needed by victims and survivors to secure justice and rebuild their lives when they have experienced abuse, what can be done to change the culture in the aid sector to prevent it from occurring in the first place, and how the new Foreign Affairs and Development Office (FCDO) should take this work forward.

In its report, Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of aid beneficiaries, the International Development Committee (IDC) finds that sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) is still happening in the sector.

This is supported by a unique survey by the IDC where 73% of respondents believe there remains a problem with SEA being perpetrated by aid workers. This is likely to have been made significantly worse with the coronavirus pandemic, with reductions in aid and food supplies making female beneficiaries more vulnerable to exploitation. Further, perpetrators are continuing to move from organisation to organisation with impunity.

Seventh Report – Progress on tackling the sexual exploitation and abuse of aid beneficiaries


January 21, 2021

Working mums: Paying the price – TUC Report

The TUC is calling for a temporary legal right to access the furlough scheme for parents and those with caring responsibilities who have had these significantly disrupted due to coronavirus restrictions, and people who cannot work because they are required to shield.

The main purpose of the furlough scheme is to support jobs where there is no demand due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, because we don’t have a parental leave system that is fit for purpose, the government made furlough scheme available in April 2020 to parents who cannot work due to Covid-19 restrictions on schools and childcare.

It would be preferable if we had a proper system of paid parental leave and better flexible work rights but in the meantime the furlough scheme is a financial lifeline that temporarily resolves a situation that is making life impossible for parents.

The temporary right would apply in situations in which workers can show that:

  • Existing childcare or other caring arrangements have been substantially altered because of coronavirus related restrictions, for example, school or nursery closures. While workers in this situation can request furlough, at present they have no right to any form of paid leave other than existing holiday entitlements; Or,
  • They are required to ‘shield’ because they are clinically extremely vulnerable, and cannot work from home, or they live with someone in this situation. Shielding workers can currently access sick pay, but at just £95.85 a week the level is too low to make this a realistic option for many workers.
  • In all cases, before the right to furlough is exercised, employees must have a conversation with their employer about possible alternative forms of work during this period, for example working from home, temporarily reducing workload or changing work times.

Discussions on alternative forms of working should be had with both dads and mums to ensure stereotypical assumptions on who provides care are not inadvertently reinforced. Likewise, furlough should be offered equally on a flexible basis to mums and dads so that they can both share care. Newly self employed parents should have immediate access to the self employment income support scheme (SEISS).


January 21, 2021

Hidden bias in job adverts deters 50% of female applicants – Study findings

Gender biased language in job adverts deters as many as one in two female applicants from applying for roles, according to a study from Openreach.

The researchers created a new, consciously unbiased, job description for an entry level engineering role, with the language of the new advert carefully crafted to appeal to men and women equally, whilst actively combating some of the challenges women face in the pre-application phase of job hunting.

When looking at the gender-inclusive advert as part of the study, women’s interest in the role increased by more than 200%, with 60% reporting that this was down to the way it was written.

A third of women (31%) felt the original advert was more suited to a man than a woman, compared with just 13% of women for the new advert, in the survey of 2,000 UK women.

Latent bias is deeply ingrained in the UK workplace, according to the study. A quarter of women (24%) still feel certain careers are better suited to men than women, with 80% discounting engineering automatically.

However, more than half (56%) were interested in the engineering job role once it had been rewritten and the word “engineer” had been taken out.

Three quarters of women felt they needed to fit the skills profile of a job specification by 70% or more, and half (51%) by 80% or more, before applying for any job.

Over half (55%) of women are considering a new career as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the research found.

The study found that businesses can be more inclusive by improving the language used in job adverts by removing latent gendered phraseology and construction in the language used and including key skillset descriptors.

Part of a longer report at

January 21, 2021

Employers should offer furlough to working parents affected by school closures – TUC

The TUC is calling on employers to offer furlough to all parents affected by school closures.

  • Last minute decision by ministers to close schools means many working mums and dads are now without childcare
  • TUC asks employers to ‘do the right thing’ and offer furlough to parents
  • And union body calls on government to introduce 10 days’ paid parental leave

Last week the government announced that some schools would not reopen to all children as planned this week, followed by a u-turn on closing schools in London. The TUC says that this series of chaotic statements and last minute approach has left working parents in real difficulties.

The job retention scheme allows bosses to furlough parents who can’t work due to a lack of childcare. Furlough is available from a minimum of seven days – which would allow mums and dads to share childcare over the coming weeks – and can also be given on a part-time basis.

But the TUC is concerned that not all bosses are aware that caring responsibilities are an acceptable reason to furlough, so many mums and dads will have no choice but to take unpaid time off work to care for their children – or even be forced to leave their jobs altogether.

Employers can help their staff get through this crisis and give them a financial lifeline by offering them furlough, says the union body.

And self-employed working parents will also need help, says the TUC. They should have automatic access to the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) alongside broader improvements to the scheme. Otherwise – already struggling after months of disruption to childcare – they could find themselves falling into serious financial difficulty and debt.

Impact on working mums 

When schools closed in March, working mums picked up the lions share of caring responsibilities. TUC polling published in September found 1 in 6 (16%) mums – mostly those in low-paid jobs – had been given no choice but to reduce their working hours due to school and nursery closures.

The TUC is concerned mums will be disproportionately affected by school closures once again. And single parents – 9 out 10 of whom are women – will also be affected as they are less likely to have someone to share the burden of care with.

Government must do more 

Ensuring that employers offer access to the job retention scheme to working parents will help the immediate crisis, but the government must do more to fix the flaws in the parental leave system. The TUC is calling on the government to introduce:

  • A day one right to 10 days’ paid parental leave. Currently parents have no statutory right to paid leave to look after their children.
  • A day one right to flexible work. Flexible working can take lots of different forms, including having predictable or set hours, working from home, job-sharing, compressed hours and term-time working.

Part of a longer press release at

See also:


January 12, 2021

Tampon tax abolished from 1st January 2021 – HM Treasury

The ‘tampon tax’ has been abolished – with a zero rate of VAT applying to women’s sanitary products coming into effect on 1 January 2021.

The move honours a government commitment to scrap the tax and is part of a wider strategy to make sanitary products affordable and available for all women which includes:

  • January 2020’s roll out of free period products for all young people in English state schools and colleges and extension of the scheme into 2021
  • the NHS offering period products to every hospital patient who needs them (including long-term in-patients) since 2019
  • the Tampon Tax Fund, established in 2015, which allocated the funds generated from VAT on period products to projects supporting vulnerable and excluded women and girls

The Chancellor announced that the tampon tax was to be abolished from 1 January 2021 at March 2020 Budget. As the transition period ended on December 31st, the UK is no longer bound by the EU VAT Directive which mandates a minimum 5% tax on all sanitary products.

Felicia Willow, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

“We warmly welcome the scrapping of VAT on all sanitary products from 1 January 2021 and congratulate the government on taking this positive step.

It’s been a long road to reach this point, but at last the sexist tax that saw sanitary products classed as non-essential, luxury items can be consigned to the history books.”

The Tampon Tax Fund will continue to provide funding for projects supporting vulnerable women and girls. Successful applicants to the £15 million funding for 2020/21 were announced last month.

Further information

  • The UK is therefore no longer legally bound by EU laws which have seen sanitary products subject to five different rates of VAT since 1973 – the latest of which was 5%, effective since January 2001.
  • Although the UK was bound by the EU VAT Directive, Parliament approved the move to a zero rate, with a provision included in Finance Act 2016 for such an eventuality. The UK also established the Tampon Tax Fund in 2015 to donate money to charity equivalent to the amount of VAT revenue collected, with £47 million donated since then to charities working with vulnerable women and girls.
  • The zero rate was legislated for in the Finance Act 2016, enabling the change to come in to force as soon as the UK has discretion to do so under its legal obligations.
  • While the UK was a Member State of the EU, we were unable to apply any rate of VAT lower than a reduced rate of 5% to sanitary products because of the EU VAT Directive.

Part of a longer press release at

January 12, 2021