Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Gender pay gap: Time for action

How are MPs looking to close Britain’s gender pay gap? Rachel Reeves provides an insight

Today, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee that I chair published a report that aims to tackle the UK’s gender pay gap – one of the largest in Europe.

At present, only companies with more than 250 employees have to report their gender pay gap, meaning that half of the UK’s workforce have no real idea of the gender pay gap in their firm. To see equality throughout the economy, that has to change.

One of our key recommendations is that the government should compel companies with more than 50 employees to report their gender pay gap from 2020. Proper pay reporting is a good first step to closing what, in some cases, is an obscene and entirely unacceptable gender pay gap of more than 40 per cent.

Among the worst examples are: Ryanair (71.8 per cent), JP Morgan Ltd (54 per cent), Capita Resourcing Ltd (50.8 per cent), Clarins (UK) Limited (49 per cent), Merrill Lynch International (46.7 per cent), EasyJet (45.5 per cent), Sainsbury’s Bank (45.3 per cent) and Specsavers Optical Superstores Limited (41.9 per cent).

The analysis undertaken by our committee found that 1,377 employers (13 per cent of the total) had gender pay gaps in favour of men of over 30 per cent.

 

In addition to increasing the number of firms who will have to report on their gender pay gap, our report also recommends that organisations should be required to publish an explanation of any gender pay gap and an action plan for closing the gap. They should also have to report each year on the progress they are making towards closing their pay gap.

It is 48 years since the Equal Pay Act – a piece of legislation that requires that men and women get the same pay and conditions for the same job. But gender pay gap reporting shows we still have a long way to go to ensure women’s work is valued as much as men’s.

Companies need to fully harness the talents of the whole population and take a lead by, for example, offering more flexible working at senior levels. Unless women get promoted to senior roles, we are missing out on a huge amount of talent at the top of the business world – inevitably damaging our economy. Ultimately, companies also need to look at their unique circumstances and find the right ways of addressing and closing the gap.

Companies are not solely responsible for solving this problem, however. The government also needs to do far more, particularly by ensuring that universal childcare and proper shared parental leave are available.

I hope our report today has helped shine a light on how men continue to dominate the highest paid sectors of the economy. With better reporting and some initiative from both business and government, we can move towards equality.

Read next: Let’s finally eradicate the attainment gap

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Rachel Reeves is chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee. She tweets @RachelReevesMP

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Rachel Reeves MP

is member of parliament for Leeds West and former shadow secretary of state for work and pensions

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