Careers guidance should help all young people to get the inspiration and the advice and guidance that they need for success in working life. We want to see schools giving not only impartial careers advice and guidance, but high-quality guidance. That is why we are investing £90 million over this Parliament to improve careers provision for young people.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that good-quality careers advice is essential. Are there any further plans for the Government to remove barriers for women when they progress with their careers, particularly when they have young children?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that. When we look in detail at the gender pay gap, we see that the situation for people who start a family often presents the biggest challenge that we face in reducing the gender pay gap further. We have given more than 20 million employees the right to request flexible working. We are providing shared parental leave, because childcare is not just an issue for women; it is an issue for men as well. My hon. Friend will know that we have committed to doubling the free childcare provided for working parents of three and four-year-olds from 15 to 30 hours a week.
Does the Secretary of State agree that although the gender pay gap has reduced, the fact that the pay gap for full-time workers is at a differential of 13.9% indicates that much work still needs to be done? Has she considered a penalty system for employers who do not comply?
We try to work with employers on a voluntary basis. This is not just about forcing employers, although we have laid gender pay gap regulations on transparency before the House. It is about business understanding why they have an interest in fixing this issue in the first place. Yes, we are bringing in mandatory reporting, and we laid regulations on that before the House in the last few days, but we want business genuinely to grasp the nettle and understand why the issue matters so much.
Female part-time workers enjoy 6% more pay than do their male equivalents. At a time when we are encouraging men to take more of their fair share of childcare responsibilities, is the Secretary of State as concerned as I am by the fact that the excellent Equal Pay Portal is worried that the gap is increasing over the long term?
What is interesting is that we have seen people’s work habits and routine change over recent years. We want to see no gender pay gap, irrespective of which gender is disadvantaged. Historically, this has been a significant issue for women, rather than men, but we want to see no gender pay gap, irrespective of gender.