Allow two people to share the job of an MP, says Fawcett Society

By agency reporter
September 9, 2017

The Fawcett Society this week published a new pamphlet, Open House? Reflections on the possibility and practice of MPs job-sharing, which makes the case for a change in the law to allow two people to share the job of an MP. Fawcett believes that this change would help get more parents with children, carers, and more disabled people, into Parliament – there is an established motherhood gap in the Commons, and there are just six disabled MPs.

Edited by Professors Rosie Campbell and Sarah Childs, the report brings together contributions from job-sharing experts, Parliamentary candidates, and lawyers to inform discussion about the idea. It explores the 2015 High Court case brought by Clare Phipps and Sarah Cope who sought to stand as job-share candidates in Basingstoke, and it contains answers to many of the arguments that are often levelled against the proposal.

The report includes new data which shows that on balance, women candidates and incumbent MPs at the 2015 election from Labour, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru, SNP and Green parties all support the idea. Men are less supportive from every party. Forewords to the report by Dame Margaret Hodge MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Tom Brake MP, and Dr Sarah Wollaston MP show that it has support from prominent parliamentarians across party lines.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, commented, “As we prepare to mark 100 years since women first won the right to vote for and sit in the Commons, we are still struggling to significantly increase the numbers of women, and particularly mothers, in Parliament. The perception remains that Parliament is ‘not for people like us’.

“MP job-sharing could start to change that by making the role accessible to people who cannot work full-time, particularly those with caring roles or disabilities. Job-sharing is an established practice across the public and private sectors but Parliament is yet to enter the 21st century.

"A number of MPs do at least two jobs, so why not make the role of MP shareable too? Arguing that "it couldn't work here" risks making MPs sound out of touch. The truth is it could work if we wanted it to."

Rosie Campbell and Sarah Childs said, “Whilst reforms to the House of Commons in recent years has made it a more diversity sensitive institution, it remains in many ways unrepresentative of the people it represents. Job-share for MPs is another means to widen opportunities for diverse participation at Westminster.

“MPs job-sharing is frequently dismissed as impossible; we beg to differ. This pamphlet is designed to lead a wider public discussion - of the ‘whys’ and ‘how’ of MPs job-share. We are confident that it provides ammunition to those seeking reform of electoral law to permit MPs job-share, and hope that it tempers critics.”

The pamphlet Open House? Reflections on the possibility and practice of MPs job-sharing can be downloaded here 

* The Fawcett Society https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/

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