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House of Commons Hansard
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17 October 2019
Volume 666
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2. What recent steps the Government have taken to close the gender pay gap. [900024]

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8. What recent steps the Government have taken to close the gender pay gap. [900031]

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This is the third year of gender pay gap reporting. We are focusing on the three sectors that employ the most women, and also on those with large gender pay gaps, such as financial services. Work is already under way on, for instance, the independent review of the gender pay gap in medicine, the recommendations of which will be published shortly. I am delighted that experts on the Women’s Business Council are helping us with our work in the retail and financial sectors in particular.

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The Scottish Government have lowered the threshold for listed public authorities to report their gender pay gaps and publish equal pay statements from more than 150 employees to more than 20. Will the UK Government consider lowering their threshold as well to increase equal-pay transparency?

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I am delighted to hear what the Scottish Government are doing. We keep that and other measures under review. As I have said, this is the third year of reporting, and we are delighted that thus far there has been 100% compliance. We must look at the data carefully, but everything is open to review. What is brilliant about this legislation is that for the first time, 10,500 employers in the country are talking about how they treat their female workers.

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Last year in Motherwell and Wishaw, women working full-time earned an average of 10% less than their male counterparts. For women who are already struggling with Tory austerity—for example, the capping of universal credit at two children—a 10% increase in pay would make a huge difference. What are the Government doing to help those women, and women across the country?

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The hon. Lady will be delighted by the Chancellor’s announcement that we are increasing the national living wage. As she will know, 60% of people who are paid the living wage are women, so that increase will have a huge impact on many women. The hon. Lady and I can agree on at least this: we want women to be treated properly and fairly in the workplace, and I am sure that we all want to close that gap.

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Flexible working gives many parents with young children an equal chance to work, and they would therefore support the narrowing of the gender pay gap. Does my hon. Friend agree that all job advertisements should specify whether the jobs are flexible, and that employees should have the right to request that flexibility?

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Very much so. My hon. Friend is right to mention flexible working and childcare. The message for employers is that flexible working not only improves diversity in their business models, but helps the bottom line. It is good for business, it is good for our country, and I think that, in particular, it is good for women to have the ability to earn their own incomes and to have the independence that we all cherish in this place.

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Does the Minister agree that the Conservatives have actually done more than any other Government to tackle the issue of pay inequality at work? What more is she doing to help women in the boardroom who do not earn as much as their male counterparts?

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I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who has done so much work on women and equalities and also on menopause. [Interruption.] I note that Opposition Members are laughing and guffawing, but these issues have a real impact on women who are the lowest paid. I am delighted if it means that the Labour party is supporting gender pay gap regulations, because it was a Conservative coalition Government who introduced the regulations and a Conservative Government who brought them into force two years ago. We need to ensure that employers are treating female employees correctly and properly, and that we are tackling that in the lowest paid sectors. That is why we have the three priority sectors of retail, healthcare and education that are working to bring action plans forward to ensure that we help the lowest paid.

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May I take this opportunity, Mr Speaker, to congratulate you on your PinkNews award, and your inspirational and outstanding speech? Trans rights are human rights.

In the previous Queen’s Speech, the right hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) pledged to make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap, but that was noticeably absent from this week’s Queen’s Speech. Does that mean that the current Prime Minister does not want to reduce the gender pay gap?

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I thank the hon. Lady for her very gracious remarks; I apologise for my inattention. It is much appreciated.

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Mr Speaker, forgive me for not congratulating you on your award. My right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) also received an award last night at the PinkNews celebrations.

On the question, that most certainly does not mean that this Prime Minister is in any way not committed to improving the gender pay gap. The fact that we have a strong ministerial team on the Front Bench today is a very clear indication of how seriously the Government take this issue. Having got the regulations in place, we are now working with industries to ensure that we are helping them achieve those action plans so that they can make the change. This has to be led with business; we have to bring business and employers with us to make this real cultural change.

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As we begin to understand the gender pay gap, does the Minister agree that, because the race pay gap is bigger than the gender pay gap, we should start to compel companies to publish their figures on that?

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That is a very good question, and I would expect no less from the hon. Lady. We are looking closely at ethnicity pay gaps. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochester and Strood (Kelly Tolhurst) from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who is present on the Front Bench, is leading on that work, and it is really important. We have been talking to industry leads and stakeholders in the third sector, and the hon. Lady will appreciate that quite how it is defined is not as easy as it is for the gender pay gap, but there is a great deal of work going on in Government to look at it.