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MPs attack ministers' lack of action on gender pay gap

MPs on a select committee have attacked the government for failing to implement reforms aimed at eliminating the gender pay gap.

The Women and Equalities Committee said the government had failed to act on its recommendations on tackling the structural causes of wage inequality.

The government’s response was “inadequate” and “deeply disappointing”, the MPs said.

The government said “we are committed to tackling the gender pay gap.”

The Women and Equalities Committee published its report and 17 recommendations on tackling the pay gap in March last year.

It received the government’s response in January, but is only now publishing the details of that response, which it described as “inadequate”.

The committee has highlighted three areas where it wants the government to justify rejecting its recommendations.

For example, the MPs said all jobs should be available to work flexibly unless an employer can demonstrate a business case against doing so.

In response, the government said the right to request flexible working – which is already in place – “strikes a balance between giving employees the flexibility to combine work with other responsibilities and allowing employers to plan effectively”.

The committee also wanted a “more effective policy on shared parental leave”, with fathers getting three months well-paid paternal leave.

The government rejected that proposal, arguing that shared parental leave was “still a very new policy”. It also pointed out the additional cost of well-paid paternity leave.

The committee also recommended a “National Pathways into Work” scheme to help women over the age of 40 back into the labour market.

The government said it already provided “advice and support to help women over 40 through the National Careers Service” as well as a range of other assistance, including loans, a career review and training programmes.

‘Deeply disappointing’

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. 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,” she added.

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to tackling the gender pay gap and our policies, which aim to balance the needs of employees and businesses while addressing this gap, are working.”

“We now have the lowest gender pay gap on record, around 60,000 people a year are taking advantage of flexible working arrangements and the introduction of Shared Parental Leave gives parents extra flexibility and we will continue to evaluate this as it beds in. We’re also supporting women over 40 in the workplace through the National Careers Service.

“But we know there’s more to do. That’s why we are requiring employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap for the first time from April and we are giving working parents of three and four year olds up to 30 hours of free childcare from September.”

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