Cameron Pressed to Act Urgently to Address U.K. Gender Pay Gap

  • Lawmakers urge flexible working, 3 months leave for fathers
  • Panel says productivity case needs to be made more strongly

The U.K. needs to take urgent action to address the gap in pay between men and women and change the culture that causes it, according to a panel of lawmakers.

Flexible work arrangements should be available in all jobs, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee said in a report published Tuesday. It also called for a non-transferable three months of parental leave, paid at 90 percent of salary, for fathers to encourage them to look after their children and a national program to help women over 40 back to work.

“The gender pay gap is holding back women and that isn’t going to change unless the government changes its policies now,” Chairwoman Maria Miller, a former equalities minister in Prime Minister David Cameron’s government, said in an e-mailed statement. “If the government is serious about long-term, sustainable growth, it must invest in tackling the root causes of the gender pay gap.”

Cameron pledged in July last year to eliminate the 19.2 percent gender pay gap “within a generation” and announced plans to force companies to publish the differences between the average earnings of their male and female employees. Women over 40 are worst affected, the committee said, with those aged between 50 and 59 facing a 27 percent gap in earnings.

The main causes for the gap are lower hourly wages for part-time work, the disproportionate responsibility taken on by women for child care and the high numbers of women in low-paid jobs such as care, cleaning and retail, the report said. Eroding the gap would also improve productivity, it said.

“The government, business, trade bodies, unions and public-sector organizations must work to move the discussion about the gender pay gap beyond one of equality, to one of economic necessity,” the report said.

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