LONDON – Britain will fail to close the pay gap between men and women within a generation as promised without more flexible working, paternal leave, and encouraging women aged over 40 back to work, a parliamentary committee said on Tuesday.
Figures from the UK’s Office of National Statistics show on average women earned about 18 percent less than men in Britain in 2016.
Chairwoman of the Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller, called on the government to act on recommendations made by the committee last March in order to meet a government pledge to end the gender pay gap within a generation.
The committee called for fathers to be granted three months paid leave to help with childcare, for mothers to be encouraged to return to work after time out, and for all jobs to be made flexible unless there was a business case against doing so.
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“It is deeply disappointing that our recommendations have not been taken on board by the government,” Miller, a lawmaker with the ruling Conservative government, said in a statement.
A government spokesperson said Britain was committed to tackling its gender pay gap, which was the lowest on record.
“But we know there’s more to do,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
“That’s why we are requiring employers to publish their gender pay and gender bonus gap for the first time from April and we are giving working parents of three and four year olds up to 30 hours of free childcare from September.”
A survey of more than 9,500 working women in G20 nations by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2015 found that four in every 10 women saw the gender pay gap as a key issue, with women in France, Germany and the United States most concerned.
Women in Britain, Australia, Brazil, and Canada also ranked the gender pay gap as their biggest workplace worry.
Miller said the government’s response to the committee’s report last year recognized the business case for reducing the pay gap with women making up 47 percent of the workforce.
She said it acknowledged structural factors contributed to the pay gap, including women doing jobs for which they are overqualified, a concentration in part-time work, and being penalized for taking time out of work to raise children.
But she said the government rejected the bulk of the committee’s 17 recommendations and maintained that current policies on shared parental leave, flexible working, and supporting women back into work were adequate.
“My committee will continue to pursue urgent action to reduce the gender pay gap – starting by questioning the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities (Justine Greening) on this inadequate response to our recommendations,” Miller said.
Greening will be questioned by the committee on April 26.