A report published this month by the Women and Equalities Select Committee has accused the government of being complicit in a system that perpetuates the gender pay gap.

The report, by a cross-party committee of MPs, highlights the lack of effective policy in many of the areas that contribute to the gender pay gap; and accuses the government of not having a coherent strategy to address them so that younger women do not encounter the same difficulties as they age.

Although the government claims that it is committed to eliminating the pay gap (which stands at 19.2 per cent) within a generation, it has remained at around the same level for the past four years. Women aged over 40 are most affected, with women aged 50-59 facing a 27 per cent differential. Evidence suggests that the barriers to well-paid work currently experienced by women over 40 will continue unless action is taken to address the root causes of the gender pay gap.

In terms of the key causes of pay differentials, the study found that these include: the part-time pay penalty; women’s disproportionate responsibility for childcare and other forms of unpaid caring; and the concentration of women in highly feminised, low paid sectors like care, retail and cleaning. The report claims that there is a wealth of evidence showing that this does not need to be the case.

The authors called on the Government to match the scope of their ambition in eliminating the gender pay gap with effective action by:

  • Making all jobs flexible by default from the outset unless there is a strong and continuing business case for them not to be
  • Bringing in non-transferrable leave for fathers and second parents to allow men and women to share care more equally
  • Establishing industrial strategies for low paid, highly feminised sectors to improve productivity and pay levels
  • Creating a National Pathways to Work scheme that will support women to return to employment after time out of the labour market

Jo Seery of Thompsons Solicitors commented “More than 40 years on since the Equal Pay Act came into force, the continued pay gap remains unacceptable. The introduction of fees in the Employment Tribunals, resulting in an 84% drop in the number of equal pay claims, means that women’s ability to challenge unequal pay has become ever more elusive.”

To read the report in full, go to: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201516/cmselect/cmwomeq/584/584.pdf