Government unveils plans to help women at work

The government will today unveil new proposals ranging “from the playground to the boardroom” to help women succeed in the workplace.

Communities secretary Ruth Kelly will launch a series of new initiatives, which are expected to include a new recruitment and career scheme for women and a new “exemplar employers” award for those who offer flexible working, time-share and good quality part-time work.

The proposals come as a result of the Women and Work Commission, which reported in February.

Kelly is expected to say that offering women greater opportunities in the workplace will add £23bn to the economy.

Other schemes that will be laid out today include a £500,000 fund for companies that offer wide-ranging flexible working. This amount falls far short of the £5m that the commission called for.

Another proposal, which formed a key part of the commission’s report, is a new requirement for local authority schools to offer career advice that is ‘free from gender stereotyping’.

“My message to business is clear, this is not about political correctness, this is about improving your profit margins,” Kelly is expected to say when she launches the proposals later today.

“The challenge now is to ensure we establish a long-term change in attitude and a major expansion of opportunities, with businesses helping individuals make the most of their talents,” she will say. “The proposals we are setting out today aim to establish a change in culture from the playground to the boardroom.”

Constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman recently announced that the government would discuss much more hard-hitting measures to challenge workplace inequality at the upcoming Labour Conference.

In a new package of policies, compulsory equal pay audits will force companies to reveal if they are paying women less than men doing the same job. The minimum wage will also be raised to help millions of women, including cleaners and care workers, on low pay.

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