MINISTERS’ failure to tackle barriers to equal wages means the gulf between men and women’s pay will remain for a generation, MPs warn today.
The government must address issues of low pay, flexible hours, returning to work, and the need for support in sharing childcare, the crossparty women and equalities committee said as it published the government’s response to its March 2016 report on the gender pay gap.
Ministers admit that “unfair or distorting barriers to work” remain, including women doing jobs for which they are overqualified, a concentration of part-time work and women being penalised for taking time out to raise a family.
But the government rejects most of the committee’s recommendations and insists that its policies are sufficient.
MPs suggested universal flexible working would help narrow the gap, while encouraging fathers to take on more of the burden of childcare would also boost women’s pay.
The report said: “The government recognises the benefits of men and women sharing care equally, but its flagship policy, shared parental leave, is predicted to make little difference to behaviour.”
Low pay in sectors mainly employing female staff, such as catering, cleaning and caring, must also be addressed, said the MPs.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “The government needs to up its game and tackle the root causes of the gender pay gap — not ignore them.
“Ministers need to stop dragging their heels and challenge workplace discrimination full on.”
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the feminist Fawcett Society, said: “At current rates of progress it will take 62 years to close the pay gap. That is far too slow.
“We won’t speed up progress unless the committee’s recommendations are implemented.”
“We must tackle discrimination in our workplaces which results in 54,000 mothers each year being forced to leave their jobs,” said Ms Smethers.
“We need to support young women to move into non-traditional sectors, tackling the harmful and wasteful gender segregation in our labour market which starts early.”
MPs will quiz Equalities Secretary Justine Greening on the government response at the end of April.