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Low-paid Work

Volume 590: debated on Thursday 15 January 2015

According to the annual survey of hours and earnings, 24.6% of women were paid below two thirds of the median wage in 2014. Although that is still too high, we are making progress as the percentage of women in low-paid work is falling compared with 2010, when the rate was 25.9%.

I thank the Minister for that answer, but she will know, as we do, that according to the House of Commons Library women have lost six times as much financially as men under the policies of this Government. Does she think that is fair and what is she going to do about it?

I would be very interested to see the report, which I understand has been requested by the Opposition and has not been forthcoming. We have cut income tax for people on low pay, many of whom are women, and in particular, the majority of the 3 million people who have been taken out of paying income tax at all are women. The Government take these issues seriously to ensure that women and indeed men are protected in these difficult economic times.

I was reading about the case of a woman who is told by her boss each day whether or not she has work by a text with a picture of a happy face or a sad face. Should those practices be banned?

As employment relations Minister I certainly would not endorse that as good employment practice. There are clearly significant issues with zero-hours contracts and the Government recognise that, which is why we are legislating through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill to make exclusivity clauses illegal. It is also why we are taking further steps to work with industry sectors to produce guidance so that best practice is followed in using such contracts, which work for some people, as the surveys from the CIPD clearly show. We need to ensure that the contracts are used properly and I agree with the hon. Lady when she points out that there are examples of bad practice in that area.