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Women in the Workplace

Volume 723: debated on Wednesday 30 November 2022

I confirm the Government’s commitment to the empowerment of women in the workplace. Over the last few years, the number of women in full-time work has increased and the gender pay gap has fallen considerably. There is more work to be done and we have announced groundbreaking pay transparency pilots, a number of new returners programmes and a taskforce for women-led high-growth enterprises.

I thank the Minister for her answer. The outgoing vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Professor Dame Louise Richardson, says that she has been shaken by the level of threat and harassment experienced by female academics. To be clear, it is not sexual harassment; it is harassment of female academics because of their belief, in particular, that sex matters and their refusal to agree with extreme gender identity ideology. That harassment often comes from students and third parties, and is not confined to universities—it exists in other workplaces. Can the Minister tell me what the Government are doing to address such harassment in the workplace?

I thank the hon. and learned Lady for her work in this space, which is vital. I point her to the private Member’s Bill on workplace harassment that the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) is promoting, with Government support, which will introduce legal protections giving employers an explicit duty to prevent workplace harassment by third parties. I look forward to working with the hon. and learned Lady on that Bill.

Sexual harassment disproportionately affects women in work. Back in 2020, a Government survey showed that half of those who reported sexual harassment at work were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which effectively silences victims. To support more women in work, will my hon. Friend look at rolling out more widely the Education Secretary’s successful campaign to stamp out the use of non-disclosure agreements in universities so that more women can benefit from the approach the Government have already undertaken?

I thank my right hon. Friend for her work on this issue. I will of course speak to my colleague in the Department for Education about it, but I want to reassure my right hon. Friend that specific legislation about sexual harassment in the workplace is going through the House at the moment with Government support.