Equal Pay

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 5th September 2013.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 9:30 am, 5th September 2013

What plans the Government have to bring forward legislative proposals for equal pay.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

From October 2014, employment tribunals will be required to order an equal pay audit where an employer has broken the law on equal pay. The Government’s “Think, Act, Report” initiative promotes greater transparency on gender employment issues. More than 125 companies are now supporting the initiative, representing nearly 2 million employees.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

Given that most part-time workers are women, that most low-paid jobs are part-time jobs, and that the average hourly wage for a woman doing part-time work is less than three quarters of the hourly wage of a full-time employee, will my hon. Friend the Minister use her energy and effectiveness with her team to ensure that women in part-time work get a fair deal and equal pay as soon as possible?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My right hon. Friend is right to raise the issues of part-time and full-time employment. One problem identified by, among others, the Women’s Business Council, is that there is often a shortage of senior roles available on a part-time or job-share basis. The Government are taking steps to help to improve the situation by extending the right to request flexible working to everyone, which should help to ensure that it becomes more of a cultural norm rather than an anomaly purely for parents. I take his point and we will continue to work on that.

Photo of Glenda Jackson Glenda Jackson Labour, Hampstead and Kilburn

I entirely agree with Simon Hughes on part-time working, which makes things particularly difficult for women, but will the Minister also look at the problem of zero-hours contracts, which have a desperately difficult impact on women?

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The hon. Lady will be glad to know that the Government are looking at zero-hours contracts. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in which I am also a Minister, undertook an information-gathering exercise over the summer. We are looking closely at what can be done to prevent the abuse of zero-hours contracts where it exists.