Coalition government equality document receives lukewarm welcome

Industry bodies and equality groups have given a lukewarm welcome to the coalition government’s commitment to workplace equality in its policy agreement.

The equality section of the document includes measures to promote equal pay, extend the right to request flexible working to all employees, undertake a public sector pay review to prevent highest paid earning more than 20 times the salary of the lowest paid, and promote gender equality in the boardroom of listed companies.

Daisy Sands, policy and campaigns officer at campaign group Fawcett Society, said: “When it comes to equality between men and women, the coalition agreement name checks several of the key issues – for example, equal pay – but fails to commit to taking real action. While we welcome support for achieving greater gender balance on executive boards and a fairer division of parenting responsibilities between men and women, the agreement is preciously light on detail.”

Abigail Morris, employment adviser at the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), said that while the BCC supports non-legislative measures to increase diversity on boards, “legislation imposing quotas is not the answer here”.

This sentiment was echoed by Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, who added that the biggest real change was the extension of who could request flexible working. “That inclusive approach is very important,” she said. “It will benefit both employers and individuals.”

David Yeandle, head of employment policy and manufacturers’ organisation EEF, warned that manufacturers will be concerned about many of the measures. “They must be introduced gradually, with employers given sufficient time and support to address the practical problems created,” he added.

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