The gender pay gap is now the lowest on record, at 18.1%, but that is still too high and eliminating it altogether is one of the key targets of this Government. That is why we have extended the right to request flexible working and introduced shared parental leave, and it is why, from September, we are rolling out 30 hours of childcare to the working parents of all three and four-year-olds.
I thank the Minister for her reply. Does she agree with the overwhelming evidence suggesting that the £1,200 employment tribunal fees introduced by her Government are creating a significant barrier to women being able to hold their employer to account for gender pay disparities in the workplace? That is all women, not just low-paid women.
The Government take that very seriously, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Courts and Justice will be coming forward with more information shortly. The Government are committed to ensuring that people from all backgrounds can access justice. Although we are very keen to see much more in the way of mediation, and ACAS has dealt successfully with more than 80,000 cases without having to go to tribunal, on Tuesday we launched a consultation on proposals to widen the support available to people under the help with fees scheme, following the completion of the fees review.
The gender pay gap in the north-east is 28%, some 10 percentage points higher than the national average. What is the Minister and the Government doing to address those very stark regional variations?
It is vital, now more than ever, that our economy is able to benefit from everybody’s skills. We simply cannot afford to waste the talents of a single person. That is why, from April this year, we are requiring all employers with more than 250 staff to publish those gender pay gap figures. We are great believers in what gets measured gets managed, but what gets published gets managed even better.
Can my hon. Friend tell the House what the gender pay gap is for 30 and 40-year-olds in each Government Department? Does she agree that the Government should be getting their own house in order before trying to lecture others in the private sector?
I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that the gender pay gap in the Department for Education is only 5.9%. Although that is 5.9 percentage points too high, it shows enormous progress in the Department for Education. Across Government, the figure is just below 13%, and we will keep working until it has been eliminated altogether.
Given that it is now 42 years since Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act, why is there any gender pay gap, not only for 30 and 40-year-olds but for people in their teens, twenties, fifties and sixties?
I thought it was 47 years this year, but maybe my maths is wrong. It was certainly a long time ago.
Wasn’t it 1975?
I thought it was 1970. [Interruption.] Anyway, we are agreed that it is a long-standing statute.
Yes, I think we can all agree that it has been a long old time. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Sir Simon Burns) is right to point this out. We have legislation that stops people being paid differently for doing the same job, but what drives the gender pay gap is the fact that girls tend to go into lower paid sectors compared with men and, of course, the pay gap really kicks in at around 30 and 40 when women leave work to have children and may not be supported back into the workplace as well as we would want. That is why gender pay gap reporting is so vital.
We are all now better informed.