Gender pay gap reporting continues to motivate employers to look at their pay data and improve workplace gender equality, and huge progress is being made. The gender pay gap has fallen by approximately a quarter in the past decade, but of course, there is more work to be done.
I thank the Minister for her response. An 18-year-old entering the workforce today will not see gender pay equality in her lifetime. With the national gender pay gap at 14% and growing, will the Minister commit this International Women’s Day to ending the motherhood penalty by fixing our broken childcare system and ensuring that every family can access affordable childcare?
Absolutely. It is this Conservative Government who, in 2017, introduced the world-leading regulations that have ensured that we are able to record the gender pay gap and the progress that we are making. We are also committed to the childcare aspect, which is difficult for many women. That is why we have announced additional funding of £160 million this year, £180 million next year, and £170 million the year after for local authorities to increase the hourly rates to pay for childcare, which is so important to women.
Last year, the gender pay gap was 12% higher than it was in 2020, the year in which the Minister for Women and Equalities was first appointed to the Government Equalities Office. If not the Minister, can anyone on the Government Front Bench please apologise to women for that increase this International Women’s Day?
I thank the shadow Minister for that question. It is disappointing that she cannot welcome the progress that has been made, and not just in terms of the gender pay gap: we are supporting pay transparency, which is equally important in making sure women are paid the same as men. We are launching a science, technology, engineering and maths returners pilot to enable 75,000 people to return to the STEM sector, mainly women. On carers’ leave, flexible working and shared parental leave, and through supporting the hon. Member for Bath (Wera Hobhouse) with her private Member’s Bill on harassment in the workplace, there is huge progress on supporting women in work.
No apology, then, for that increase in the gender pay gap over recent years, and no real action, it seems. Other figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the gender pay gap for women in their 50s and 60s is nearly four times higher than it is for those in their 30s. Some 185,000 women aged between 50 and 64 have also left the workforce since 2020, at a cost of £7 billion to our economy. Will the Minister back Labour’s proposal for larger companies to publish menopause action plans to support women to stay in work, boost productivity and grow our economy, or will that action to support working women again just be dismissed as left-wing?
I am pleased that the Labour party is getting with the programme—that it can actually define what a woman is, for a start. We will not take any lectures from the Labour party; perhaps it needs to get its own house in order before lecturing the rest of the country, because according to The Daily Telegraph in January, the Labour party paid its black workers 9% less than its white workers. It absolutely needs to get its own house in order.
As I highlighted to the Leader of the House last week, the gender pay gap between women and men currently sits at nearly 15%. We know that women are not a homogenous group, so that gap will vary further based on intersecting characteristics, including ethnicity and disability status. Will the Minister, in line with the theme for this International Women’s Day, embrace equity by mandating gender pay gap reporting and action plans for all employers, as well as introducing ethnicity and disability pay gap reporting requirements?
As I set out, this Government in 2017 set out world-leading regulations requiring larger employers to publish their average salaries, but that does not stop other employers from doing the same. We would have to pass new regulations to reduce that threshold and change the Equality Act 2010, but we are seeing all employers wanting to reduce the gender pay gap, and we are leading the way in government, with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Work and Pensions having eliminated that gap in their Departments.