Committee raises concerns on structural causes
The Women and Equalities Committee raises concerns that the Government is not effectively tackling the structural causes of the gender pay gap, as it publishes the Government's response to its recommendations. The Committee's report and recommendations were published in March 2016 and received a Government response in January 2017.
The Committee is also launching a web forum for stakeholders, including researchers, business-people and members of the public, to respond to the reasons given by the Government for not implementing the Committee's recommendations.
These recommendations included:
- Addressing the part-time pay penalty and flexible working: "Flexible working for all lies at the heart of addressing the gender pay gap. This does not mean part-time working, which is underpaid and limits career progression. The Government is not taking the steps needed to ensure flexible working is offered to all employees, particularly those in lower paid sectors."
- Supporting parents to share childcare equally: "As long as women continue to take the majority of responsibility for childcare and other forms of unpaid caring, pay differentials will persist. The Government recognises the benefits of men and women sharing care equally, but its flagship policy, shared parental leave – is predicted to make little difference to behaviour."
- Supporting women back into the workforce after time out of the labour market: The inquiry also found that women faced a number of barriers to returning to work and that there is more scope for schemes which support women returning to work across a range of occupations.
- Addressing low pay in highly feminised sectors such as catering, cleaning and caring: "Other than the minimum wage, there has been no co-ordinated attempt to address the issues faced by women in low paid sectors."
Government rejection of Committee's recommendations
The Government's response recognises the business case for reducing the gender pay gap and notes that, while the rate of female participation in the labour market has increased, "unfair or distorting barriers to work" remain. It acknowledges structural factors contributing to the pay gap, including women doing jobs for which they are overqualified, concentration in part-time work, and being penalised for taking time out of work to raise children.
Despite this, the Government rejects most of the Committee's seventeen evidence-based recommendations for addressing these issues. It highlights gender pay gap reporting, as "key to accelerating progress," and maintains that current policies on Shared Parental Leave, flexible working, and supporting women back into work are adequate.
Committee will continue to pursue urgent action
Committee Chair Maria Miller said:
"The Government says there is no place for a gender pay gap in modern Britain and has restated its pledge to end the pay gap within a generation. But without effectively tackling the key issues of flexible working, sharing unpaid caring responsibilities, and supporting women aged over 40 back into the workforce, the gender pay gap will not be eliminated.
We made practical, evidence-based recommendations to address these issues. They were widely supported by a range of stakeholders including businesses, academics, and unions. It is deeply disappointing that our recommendations have not been taken on board by Government.
My Committee will continue to pursue urgent action to reduce the gender pay gap – starting by questioning the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities on this inadequate response to our recommendations."
The Committee will be questioning the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, Justine Greening MP, on the Government's response to its recommendations on Wednesday 26 April.
Submit your comments on Government Response
The Committee is calling for evidence on the responses made by the Government to the following three recommendations made in the Committee's report:
- All jobs should be available to work flexibly unless an employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so. The latest data from 2016 shows that just 8.7% of jobs paying a full-time equivalent of £20,000 are advertised as available to work flexibly or part-time. Our report demonstrated that this creates a significant bottleneck to women's employment, promotion and progression opportunities. The Government response argued that the right to request flexible working which is in place now "strikes a balance between giving employees the flexibility to combine work with other responsibilities and allowing employers to plan effectively. Employers can also advertise jobs on flexible terms or offer flexible working arrangements to their employees outside the statutory scheme if they wish – and many employers already do so."
- A more effective policy on shared parental leave. The Committee recommended that fathers and second parents should be entitled to three months' well-paid, non-transferrable paternal leave in addition to current parental leave benefits. We also recommended equalising the payments for the first four weeks of maternity and paternity pay. The Government rejected these proposals for reforming parental leave on the grounds that Shared Parental Leave is "still a very new policy"; it also pointed to the additional cost of well-paid paternity leave and argued that the proposals would offer less flexibility.
- A National Pathways into Work scheme for harnessing the skills and experience of women over 40. This scheme would give women a clear entry point into a support system offering careers guidance; retraining where necessary; and information on local skills shortages and job opportunities. The Government rejected this recommendation on the grounds that it "already provides advice and support to help women over 40 through the National Careers Service." It also pointed to evidence for its Advanced Learner Loans, Mid-Life Career Review, and work experience and training programmes for benefit claimants aged 45 or older.
Deadline for submissions
Evidence should reach the Committee by 12 noon Wednesday 12 April 2017.