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Gender Pay Gap

Volume 524: debated on Thursday 10 March 2011

The Office for National Statistics estimates that the median gender pay gap for full-time work for men and women was 10.2% in 2010, and the median gap comparing all men and women was 19.8%. The Government are committed to promoting equal pay, including, for example, working with employers to help them publish equality data about their work force on a voluntary basis. We will also consult shortly on proposals to include flexibility at work.

I am grateful, and the Home Secretary’s commitment to this issue is well known. Men in this place and in the country feel as angry about the gender pay gap as do women. Given that this week is the 100th anniversary of the celebration of international women’s day, will the Home Secretary confirm that if we can deal effectively with the gender pay gap, it could have a huge effect on Britain’s growth and success economically? Will she set out that commitment to bring those two policies together?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is absolutely right that where we see a gender pay gap it is often a reflection of the under-utilisation of women’s skills in the workplace, and the under-utilisation of women’s skills certainly has an impact on the economy. If we were able to ensure that women’s skills were being used at the appropriate level and that women were able to progress through to appropriate levels in companies, for example, it would indeed be positive for growth. That explains our commitment, working with Lord Davies, to see more women on company boards.

What assessment has been made of the impact of legal aid cuts, in the context of employment law cases, on the ability of women to challenge gender pay inequality through our legal system?

As the hon. Lady may know, we have been looking into the whole question of employment tribunals and pay discrimination cases. We are considering the possibility of making things easier by enabling a single decision to apply to anyone in a company rather than requiring people to go to employment tribunals on an individual basis.