Skip to main content

Gender Pay Gap

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 3 July 2014

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is good to be back. May I place on the record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott) for the fantastic job she did in covering my maternity leave?

The full-time pay gap has now been almost eliminated for women under the age of 40, but we must close the gap across all ages and for part-time workers. We are promoting transparency through the “Think, Act, Report” initiative. As the pay gap is partly driven by the different sectors and jobs in which men and women work, we are encouraging girls and young women to consider a wider range of careers through the “Your Life” initiative.

I, too, welcome the Minister back to her place. The Equal Pay Act 1970 dates back some 44 years, so why does the Minister think that last year the difference between earnings for men and women went up and not down, and why have women in their 20s seen the gender pay gap double since her Government came to power?

The 0.1% increase in the pay gap in the past year is certainly not a sign of things going in the right direction, although it was a very small increase. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that 40 years after equal pay legislation, it is not good enough that we still have a pay gap in this country. We need to look at the causes of that pay gap, which might include time out of the workplace. The new flexible working entitlements regime that came in this week will help to change the culture of our workplace. As I mentioned, we need to look at occupational segregation. We also need to look at discrimination and outdated attitudes when women are not being paid the same for the same work. We need to change that, which is why we are working with businesses.

What more can be done to get women to consider a wider range of careers, particularly in science and engineering?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. Only 7% of engineers are women. That difference in the sectors is a significant driver of the pay gap. The problems start very early in children’s lives, so we need to look at the messages that are being put out through the education system but also more widely in the media regarding stereotypes and what young girls are encouraged to aspire to. We are encouraging parents and schools to have the information they need to assist their children.

I, too, welcome the Minister back.

Progress on narrowing the pay gap has all but come to a standstill. Progress was much quicker under Labour, so will the Minister admit that narrowing the gap by 0.1% in four years is just not good enough?

I certainly agree that we need to ensure that we close the pay gap. This is an important issue. It is ideal if we can work with employers to do so. The “Think, Act, Report” initiative means that 200 employers covering 2 million employees in the work force are working to improve the situation for women. They have already made significant steps forward since joining up and since that initiative started in 2011. Two thirds of those employers say that they now publish more information on gender pay. Nearly half of them now do pay audits. That would not have happened without this Government’s initiative, but we have said that we will keep the issue under review, because we need success.