berrpn21 0708

8 February 2008 (PN 21)


A report published today (February 9th) by the Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Committee calls on the Government to do more to implement the recommendations of the Women and Work Commission[1] to eliminate the gender pay gap.

Judy Mallaber, MP for Amber Valley, who led the inquiry commented:

"The gender pay gap persists despite thirty years of equal pay legislation, largely due to occupational segregation. This is not only unfair to women but also limits the pool of recruits available to employers at a time when harnessing and extending the skills of all is increasingly vital for the health of the economy. To tackle this will require a culture change amongst employers, unions, in educational institutions and the whole of society.
"We need a determined effort on all fronts if we are to crack the worryingly stubborn pay gap and inequality in employment. The committee was concerned at the lack of a timetable and committed funding in the government's initial response to the Women and Work Commission report. But later progress reports are more encouraging and we were heartened by the Ministerial commitment demonstrated in our committee hearings. We are calling on all government departments, public bodies and other Select Committees to keep this high on their agendas.
"We have come up with a series of recommendations to help this process, which the Women and Work Commission's report has already gone a long way to address, and urge the Government to take them seriously."

Key amongst the report's recommendations are:

- As the causes of occupational segregation start with the assumptions made by families and in schools, the report says the Department for Children, Schools and Families must give higher priority to careers advice and work experience with more support and funding so it is not just seen as an 'extra' duty. Further efforts are also needed to build links with employers.
- To aid older women wanting to change their work direction, or returning to work after a break, the report calls for added urgency on the Ofsted review of practices to ensure flexibility in adult education and for additional funding if necessary for initiatives by colleges to deal with gender inequality.
- While the report welcomes the Government's proposed substantial extension in apprenticeships, it emphasises the need to promote greater equality through this form of training and asks that the CEHR and Low Pay Commission examine the gender pay gap among apprentices.
- The dearth of quality part-time jobs is one of the main reasons for the persistence of the gender pay gap, as well as a waste of the experience and skills of many older women, so the Committee calls for an increase in funding for the Government's Quality Part-Time Work Initiative to the original £5million target recommended by the Women and Work Commission.
- The Government should consider a gradual extension of the right to request flexible working to the whole workforce to recognise the wider changes in work that can affect any employee.
- The report emphasises that is important not just to look at occupational segregation, but also to address the undervaluation of 'traditional' women's jobs. Measures such as the minimum wage and initiatives to encourage women into more senior positions in these areas were highlighted by the Committee's witnesses.
- If the pay gap continues only to decline slowly, the Government should look at further measures such as the extension of the gender equality duty to the private sector and consider making pay audits mandatory.
- The Discrimination Law Review has not adequately addressed the current failings in legislation and so the report recommends the Government look again at the issues of hypothetical comparators, representative actions, time limits and other proposals not taken up in the Review's findings. It also recommends the Government examine the role played by some 'no win no fee' lawyers in current public sector equal pay claims cases.
- After having examined the Government's record in promoting gender equality within its main departments, the report urges the Secretary of State for Equality to ensure that the best practice which is evident in some departments is extended to all. The report includes results of a survey of departmental practice.
- The report also identifies scope for greater use of public procurement to promote social policies and concludes the advice given by the OCG is too timid and should be reviewed. The committee believes that public bodies are open to challenge for breaching their legal duty to promote gender equality if they fail to ask their suppliers and contractors to demonstrate active commitment to equality principles in both their staffing practices and their provision of goods and services.

All media enquiries: Laura Humble, Tel 0207 219 2003/ 07917 488 489, email: [email protected]
Specific Committee Information: Tel 020 7219 5777, email: [email protected]

Further Information:
Membership of the Trade and Industry sub-Committee, under which the inquiry was undertaken was as follows:
Chairwoman: Judy Mallaber MP (Lab) (Amber Valley)
Roger Berry MP (Lab) (Kingswood)
Ms Claire Curtis-Thomas MP (Lab) (Crosby)
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Con) (Bromsgrove)

Relevant publications & links:

The Minister for Women's report on progress in implementing the Women and Work Commission's recommendations (Towards a Fairer Future, January 2007)
The Government's Action Plan (February 2006) for implementing the Women and Work Commission's recommendations
The original report from the Women and Work Commission (Shaping a Fairer Future), published February 2006
The Government's response to the Committee's report (Jobs for the girls: occupational segregation and the gender pay gap), published July 2005
The Trade and Industry's Committee report Jobs for the girls: occupational segregation and the gender pay gap (Sixteenth Report of Session 2004-05, HC 300-I) published April 2005.