Commission to consider recommending mandatory pay reviews

The government’s Women and Work Commission has confirmed that it will consider recommending the introduction of mandatory pay reviews to plug the gender pay gap, as revealed in Personnel Today two weeks ago.

In its interim report, published today, the commission set out the areas it will be focusing on before reporting to the prime minister in the autumn.

They include the valuing of caring jobs, workplace practice and equal pay legislation including the case for mandatory pay reviews and equality representatives.

Trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt welcomed the report from commission, led by Margaret Prosser.

Hewitt said: “The pay gap is not only damaging to women, it’s bad for business and productivity too. The causes of the pay gap are not simple, so understanding how we can crack them is essential, that’s why the commission’s work on the pay gap and the reasons as to why women fall into certain often low-paid occupations is extremely important.”

Prosser added: “The pay and opportunities gap is a complex and multi-layered problem, which requires practical improvements and action from government, employers, employees and their representatives.

“The government can influence women’s opportunity through taking an approach to education and training, infrastructure, supporting families or regulation where appropriate which addresses the differences between girls and boys and women and men. We all stand to benefit and we all share responsibility for tackling this very significant problem.”  

The Women and Work Commission’s interim statement covers some of the evidence which has helped the commission define its task, sets out the broad scope of its thinking and general approach and shares with a wider audience the questions which it believes it is important to address. It does not contain specific recommendations – these will be made in the final report.

However there is already some indications of the direction of the commission’s thinking, and some likely future challenges for government:

– The commission believes the government should encourage public authorities to take steps to review pay systems to prevent equal pay cases from ever having to reach the courts

– The commission is concerned about girls’ access to information and support to make informed choices about educational subjects, training, jobs and careers. It challenges the government to address these concerns around constraints to girls’ and women’s choices so that their horizons are broadened and aspirations raised during current important developments including the forthcoming Youth Green Paper.

– The commission highlights particular difficulties related to working part time: a lack of availability of “quality” part time work and constraints to training and promotion for those working part time. The commission welcomes the high-profile discussion of both work-life balance and childcare and looks to see specific consideration given to the impact on women’s pay, opportunity and skills over the lifetime in these debates, alongside other relevant impacts, not least that on the child.

– The commission believes that women’s choice is constrained by a number of barriers which interact to hold down women’s pay, limit employers’ ability to use women’s skills and full potential and limit the UK’s productivity and competitiveness.

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