General Election 2019: rival parties set out plans to tackle gender pay gap

Labour pledges to accelerate measures to close the gender pay gap by 2030, while Lib Dems sets sights on ‘pink tax’.

The Labour party announced on Equal Pay Day that it would eradicate the gender pay gap by 2030 if it wins the 2019 general election.

Citing a mean gender pay gap of 13.1%, the party said it would introduce new measures such as a new agency able to fine organisations that fail to report its figures.

It would extend gender pay reporting to all companies with more than 50 employees rather than 250, introduce “a real living wage” of £10 an hour and national pay scales for jobs that are predominantly done by women.

The Labour party’s proposal includes creating a new Workers’ Protection Agency, working with HMRC to fine organisations that fail to report their gender pay gap; extending statutory maternity pay from nine to 12 months, free childcare for two- to four-year-olds, and better employment protection for pregnant women.

Dawn Butler, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said: “I’m sick of how women are treated at work. Audits aren’t enough; we know there’s a problem that needs fixing. So, we will do something about it.

“We’ll also extend the amount of time a new mother can spend with her newborn by extending Statutory Maternity Pay to 12 months so that all mothers can afford to spend those vital early months with their baby.

“Labour will deliver a workplace revolution to bring about a step-change in how women are treated at work. We’ll boost pay, increase flexibility, and strengthen protections against harassment and discrimination.

“After years of our concerns being ignored, it’s time for real change.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said: “Companies share the Labour Party’s ambition to close the gender pay gap as quickly as possible. Creating inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive is the only way to tackle gender inequality at work.

“The gender pay gap is caused by a wide range of factors. Some of those – such as the availability of childcare, career progression and improved careers advice – require business and government to work in partnership to deliver lasting change.

“93% of firms are already taking action – Labour should engage with businesses to get behind and accelerate their efforts, rather than adding bureaucracy with government certification.”

Liberal Democrats

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats intend to tackle the gender pay gap by asking companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on employment levels by gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation. This would extend the obligation of larger organisations to publish data on their gender pay gap, which has been in place since 2017.

The party will also push for a law to end the so-called pink tax – a bill tabled earlier this year by the Lib Dem’s equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine – whereby companies charge higher prices for products such as razors or deodorants simply because they are marketed at women.

The Lib Dem’s proposals to promote diversity in the UK also include developing a government-wide plan to tackle BAME inequalities and a free, comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit. There are also plans to extend the use of name-blind recruitment processes in the public sector and encourage their use in the private sector.

Jardine said: “Equal Pay Day always leaves a bitter taste for women across the UK. It is totally unacceptable that, in the 21st century, women are still hit with the double whammy of the price and pay gap. The Conservatives have failed to take necessary action to help ensure gender equality.”
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