Government ignoring evidence to help end gender pay gap, say MPs

The Government will fail to eliminate the gender pay gap in a generation if it continues to "ignore" evidence to help achieve its goal, MPs have said.

Concerns were raised that ministers were not effectively tackling the causes of the difference in pay between men and women.

The cross-party Women and Equalities Committee made 17 recommendations last March, but most of them were rejected in the Government's response last month.

The MPs had called for measures to address a pay "penalty" suffered by part-time workers, help for parents to share childcare and support for women returning to work after having children.

Conservative MP Maria Miller, who chairs the committee, 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."

The committee is calling for evidence on shared parental leave, help for women over 40 finding work, and whether all jobs should be flexible.

A separate report found that work opportunities for women had improved "rapidly" since 2000, with the UK ranked 13th out of 33 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

But a study by PwC also found that the UK falls behind the number of women in full-time jobs, coming near the bottom of the list.

On current trends, the gender pay gap will not be closed until 2041, the research found.

Laura Hinton, executive board member at PwC, said: "While it's encouraging that the UK is making progress on closing the gender pay gap, it is depressing that it will still take around a generation to close it completely.

"Pay reporting requirements should help speed up change as businesses will face greater accountability. But merely reporting numbers without any concrete action won't change anything.

"We know that women are ambitious - we now need to create workplaces that support their ambition, and enough skilled and senior roles that have the flexibility to accommodate work and caring responsibilities."

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."

Sarah Jackson, chief executive of work-life balance charity Working Families, said: "The gender pay gap remains a stark reality.

"The Government needs to take bolder action if we're going to change things for the next generation of mothers and fathers."

Sarah Champion, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, said the committee's recommendations were falling on "deaf ears", adding: "This Government continues to ignore the voices and experiences of thousands of women in chronically low paid, under-valued sectors of the economy such as care, hospitality and retail - industries where zero hour contracts and bad practice have been allowed to run rife.

"The structural causes of the gender pay gap must be addressed, otherwise women will simply continue to be left behind."