In the Commons this week: Deregulation and the gender pay gap

2 July 2015 Conservative MPs congratulated themselves over deregulation.

2 Jul 2015| News

2 July 2015

Conservative MPs congratulated themselves over deregulation.

Low skilled jobs

Labour MPs Melanie Onn and Christina Rees asked “What recent estimate he has made of the proportion of jobs in the economy which are low-skilled?

Rather than actually answering the question the Minister for Skills Nick Boles replied; “We are focused on increasing the number of jobs at all levels of skill and on investing in 3 million apprenticeships, which will help people to improve their skills and command higher wages”.

Melanie Onn MP pointed out that the Conservatives are in fact reversing the progress made towards creating green jobs by cutting investment in renewable energy.

“Cutting Red Tape”

Conservative MP Kit Malthouse asked The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Savid Javid;

“As a small businessman—I draw the attention of the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests—I welcome the Government’s work in the past four years to roll back the red tape that has dogged small businesses. Now that the Government are firmly in control of the Department, can Ministers reassures us that they will redouble their efforts? In particular, will they develop measurable targets, for cutting red tape and administration for small business, against which we can measure success?”

Sajid Javid confirmed that the government will “continue to work very hard to cut regulations”. He continued, “Cutting regulation for businesses is like a tax cut for those businesses. The only difference is that it does not cost the Exchequer anything, so we should cut as much regulation as possible”. Which rings alarm bells for anyone concerned about employment rights.

Michael Tomlinson MP added “I welcome the Government’s work to encourage businesses to take more people on by reducing the burden of employment law”.

Shadow Business Secretary Chukka Umuna pointed out; “Britain has the worst productivity in the G7, bar Japan. Proper adult skills provision, not just apprenticeships, plays a vital role in addressing that, but the adult skills budget has been cut by 35% in the past five years. Now the Chancellor tells us that a further £450 million is to be taken out of the Department’s budget, which could lead to the end of further education as we know it”.

Equal pay

Equal pay was discussed in the Commons on Wednesday. The motion tabled for debate was moved by Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Gloria del Piero and read as follows;

‘That this House notes that, 45 years after the Equal Pay Act 1970, women still earn on average 81 pence for every pound earned by men; welcomes the fact that pay transparency under section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 will be introduced in 2016; and calls on the Government to ensure that this results in real progress to close the gender pay gap by mandating the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to conduct, in consultation with the Low Pay Commission, an annual equal pay check to analyse information provided under section 78 on pay gaps across every sector of the economy and to make recommendations to close the gender pay gap.’

She spoke powerfully on the subject, saying; “The Equal Pay Act outlawed discrimination in pay and is still used today by women to challenge such discrimination, but it is not enough…I am sure the Secretary of State will say in her speech that the gender pay gap is the lowest on record, but I hope she will also concede that, in the past five years, the pace at which the pay gap is closing has slowed. That is why pay transparency is important. When companies publish data on pay, they are often surprised by how few women are in senior positions or earn the same as their male colleagues, and they usually act to change it.

In response to Maria Miller’s rebuttal that the gender pay gap has has “all but disappeared for women under 40”, del Piero said; “I believe there is a flaw in the measurement. An hour at work is an hour at work, no matter whether someone is part-time or full-time. I for one find it peculiar that the Office for National Statistics makes that distinction. Is it because most women are in part-time work? I fear that that is exactly why…Some 41% of female jobs are part-time jobs, yet on an hourly basis this part-time work is paid a third less than the full-time equivalent. So, to get a real picture of the extent of pay inequality in Britain between men and women, we have to recognise this full-time/part-time pay gap. Otherwise, we will never take the steps needed to encourage the creation of higher-paid, flexible working at every level in our economy”. Well said.

For more about equalities, come to the IER’s next conference:

Equality and Discrimination: Post Election Priorities

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Diskus Room, Unite the Union, London

The Institute of Employment Right’s 10th Equalities conference will take place under the UK’s first Conservative majority government in almost two decades. It will be an event not to miss for those concerned about how the UK’s equality and anti-discriminatory laws will fair over the next five years.