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Equal Pay

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2008

To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what recent steps the Government has taken to reduce the gender pay gap in the public sector. (185375)

[holding answer 7 February 2008]: The gender pay gap for full-time public sector workers (based on the median) was 10.2 per cent. in 2007 compared to 20.0 per cent. in the private sector. In 1997 the figures were 13.5 per cent. and 23.8 per cent. respectively.

Closing the pay gap between men and women in both the public and private sectors is a high priority for us, as Harriet Harman made clear in my statement to Parliament on women’s priorities last July. We see it as an essential part of enabling families to have real choices about how they live their lives, because the pay gap plays such a large part in the unequal division of labour in the home, preventing fathers from playing a more active role in their children’s early years and preventing women from fulfilling their opportunities to work. To galvanise this, closing the pay gap is now one of the indicators in the new Equalities Public Service Agreement. This will help to build on other practical measures we have introduced, such as: giving the parents of young, or disabled, children and the carers of adults the right to request flexible working, and providing more access to child care.

In the field of local government, we have issued £500 million of capitalisation directions to 46 local authorities in the current financial year (which enables those authorities to treat equal pay costs as capital expenditure, which they can then borrow against) to enable them to make equal pay back-payments. The Minister for Local Government confirmed on 5 February that the Government will continue to support councils through a further equal pay capitalisation round in 2008-09. Capitalisation can only be used by local authorities to meet equal pay back-payments, and not for any other costs.

Through the Equality Act 2006, which came into effect in April 2007, we also introduced a general duty on public authorities to promote gender equality and eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment. The Act and subsequent legislation also imposed specific duties on certain listed public authorities, including central and local government, which include:

drawing up and publishing a gender equality scheme every three years, which shows what authorities plan to do to improve gender equality (including the gender pay gap), and how they will do this. In drawing up such a scheme, authorities must gather relevant information and data, and consult employees and stakeholders to identify specific gender equality objectives.

ensuring that the impact of new legislation, policies, employment and service delivery changes on men and women is assessed. These assessments must also be published.