The Government will fail to erase the gender pay gap without implementing an action plan it has just dismissed, MPs have said.
Ministers were accused of “dragging their heels” and failing to tackle “the root causes of the gender pay gap” for dismissing the Women and Equalities Committee’s recommendations.
These included making flexible work more available, encouraging more fathers to take time off work to look after children and creating a new scheme to help stop women over 40 working in jobs for which they are overqualified.
The pay gap will take more than 60 years to stomp out without these measures, campaigners warned.
When the committee recommended the measures last year, MP Jess Phillips, 35, told HuffPost UK the battle for equal pay was “lost for my generation”.
Women who work full-time earn around 13% less than male colleagues but the Government’s response to the committee’s 17 recommendations defended its existing approach.
Feminist campaign group The Fawcett Society said, without the measures the committee proposed, the gender pay gap will take 62 years to close, based on the rate of progress between 2012 and 2016.
Committee chair Maria Miller said: “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… It is deeply disappointing that our recommendations have not been taken on board.”
The Government needs to up its game and tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap – not ignore them.”
Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The Government needs to up its game and tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap – not ignore them.
“This means removing the barriers that stop women getting better-paid jobs. And helping parents to share out caring responsibilities more equally.
“Ministers need to stop dragging their heels and challenge workplace discrimination full on.”
The Government said existing plans to force large companies to publish details of their own gender pay gaps were “key to accelerating progress”.
The committee’s call for a better policy on Shared Parental Leave (SPL) – which so far only a small proportion of new fathers take up – was shot down because SPL is “ still a very new policy” that is intended to “bring about a cultural change in attitudes… over time”.
SPL was introduced in April 2015. The Government estimates between 2% and 8% of couples took advantage of it in its first years.
Research shows that, at age 42, mothers had suffered an 11% pay penalty for having children, while fathers actually earn 21% more than men without children at the same age.
The Fawcett Society calls for a dedicated, well-paid period of leave for childrens’ second carers, in addition to SPL, to redress this.
Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers said the current rate of progress in eliminating the pay gap was “far too slow”.
“We won’t speed up progress unless the Committee’s recommendations are implemented,” she said.
“We have to make flexible working the norm and advertise all jobs as flexible working jobs unless there is a good business reason not to.
“We need to support fathers to care for children – this means a fundamental shift in the parental leave system, equalising leave entitlements.
“And we must tackle discrimination in our workplaces which results in 54,000 mothers each year being forced to leave their jobs.”