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Good-time girls

Many people need a summer holiday to get the feelgood factor. We know what stresses us out the most, whether it is divorce or separation, the death of family or friends, moving house or, of course, money. But what apart from holidays makes us feel good?

There is a wealth of opinion which states that increasing real income does not in itself make people happier. Income is not the only or most important factor in reported satisfaction levels. Health, family and personal relationships always rate high in most people’s lists of influences affecting their well-being.

According to New Scientist, contrary to popular belief, marriage gives men and women an equal boost to their mental well-being.

Married women with children and a job had the fewest mental health problems of the female sample, suggesting that kids are not as stress-inducing as some parents like to claim. It is good, therefore, to know that the Government has just announced a new programme of activity that aims to offer useful support for working families.

How does this impact on financial services, you may ask? Alongside the help for families there will be a number of new measures introduced which employers have indicated would be helpful for them.

A new piece of legislation called the Work and Families Act 2006 received Royal Assent on June 21. This covers the frame- work to extend statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay and maternity allowance to nine months from April 2007.

There is also a provision to make it easier for employees to request flexible working hours to be able to care for spouses, parents or partners.

In July, the related Maternity and Parental Leave and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2006 were published, introducing a range of changes:
  • Pregnant women who are employed will no longer need 26 weeks of service to qualify for additional maternity leave. All women will be entitled to 52 weeks’ maternity leave irrespective of their length of service.
  • If a new mum wishes to return early from maternity leave, she must give eight weeks notice instead of the current 28 days.
  • Women on maternity leave can agree to work up to 10 days during their maternity leave so that contact with the workplace is maintained. Employers are also entitled to make “reasonable contact” with the employee while she is on maternity leave.Employers with five employees or less will no longer be exempt from automatic unfair dismissal claims if they prevent employees from returning to the same or a similar job after additional maternity or adoption leave.


These provisions are due to come into force on October 1, 2006 but will apply to employees who are expecting or adopting babies on or after April 1, 2007.

As for money making us happy, the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that 53 per cent of UK millionaires will be women by 2020.

Why is this? The reason is pinned on the facts that women live longer than men and that maximum divorce payments are increasing, remembering that more than one in three marriages end in divorce. It may also be related to the fact that women prefer less risky investments.

The latest National Savings & Investments quarterly saving survey shows that the amount women save as a percentage of their average monthly income is more than 1 per cent higher than last spring at 6.84 per cent – one of their highest ever levels and more than that saved by men (6.37 per cent) for the first time since the quarterly savings survey began in 2004. This is despite the fact that men’s average monthly income (1,508) has increased substantially more than women’s (1,047) over the last year compared with 1,370 for men and 992 for women in spring 2005.

As a parting thought, how many female fund managers or IFAs can you name? If anyone can name more than a couple of dozen, without using a search engine, do let me know so I will stop twittering on about where have all the senior women gone in financial services?

Kim North (kim@techand tech.co.uk) is director of Technology and Technical

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