A coalition backed programme designed to assess the disparity between menís and womenís pay in companies across the UK has yielded insufficient findings due to the lack of firms willing to disclose their data, according to new figures.
The figures came to light as Gloria de Piero, the shadow women & equalities minister, contested the worth of the programme in question, highlighting a supposed £90,000 of taxpayerís money that had been allocated to the scheme despite the lack of any meaningful findings.
The Coalitionís answer revealed that although over 200 firms enlisted to the ìThink, Act, Reportî programme, only four firms have exposed their pay differences between men and women, with merely two of them showing alternate pay grades ñ a statistic too small to shed any light on the gravity of the gender pay gap within the UK.
In 2013, the average pay for a man was 19.7% greater than for a woman, with the average hourly wage for men standing at £12.97, whilst women were given a less substantial £10.33
ìThink, Act, Reportî was initiated in the early stages of the Coalition government, heralded by governmental figures, particularly the Liberal Democrats, as a revolutionary plan that would moderate the irrefutable inequalities within the employment sector.
At the time of the schemeís inauguration in September 2011, home secretary, Theresa May, stated that its “aim is to improve transparency on pay and wider workplace equality issues to help drive change, including closing down the gender pay gap”.
One portion of text, found on the schemeís official website, said: “We want organisations to take a step-step approach: starting by undertaking their own analysis of these issues, where necessary to take action to address them, and in time reporting on gender equality in their organisation, including on the gender pay gap. In short: think, act and report.î
However with such little participation on the part of companies, the scheme has yielded practically nothing to this point, leaving the Coalition government open to attack on the issue of gender inequality ñ an opportunity that Ms. De Piero has grasped with both hands.
She said: “The Lib Dems have had four years in government to deliver this. They even have a Lib Dem minister in charge of the department responsible. Instead their ‘groundbreaking voluntary approach’ has been a total flop.î
Ms De Pierosí disparaging remarks are in reference to Nick Cleggís recent comments which implored the public to usher in another government involving the Liberal Democrats, as it would compel companies to release their pay gap figures.
Yet, Mr. Clegg has made similar promises in recent times, stating in July that he would demand any company, with over 250 people in its employ, to publish average wages for both its male and female staff. The Liberal Democrats said they would enforce section 78 of the Equalities act 2010 which would enable them to carry out their claims.
However, these claims seem to be empty and at a time of low voter confidence, the Liberal Democrats cannot afford to seem weak.
A government spokesperson defended Think, Act, Report, saying: “It is not all about pay. For many companies ñ especially those in traditionally male-dominated sectors ñ signing up is a positive first step. We know that at least four choose to publish their gender pay gap, and at least two go further to break it down by grade.”
Managersí aversion to maternity leave
Adding further fuel to the fire surrounding gender discrimination, a survey from Slater & Gordon, respected law firm, has shown that over 40% of managers show hesitancy when it comes to hiring women of childbearing age.
More controversial yet, a similar proportion of managers admitted they would be uneasy considering a candidate for a top job who has already given birth, or is a mother of young children.
Around 44% of employers underlined the financial burden their company would undertake due to maternity leave, whilst roughly 25% pointed to the hassles involved in child care as justification for choosing to hire a man rather than a woman.
More damning yet, 33% of managers declared that women are worse at their jobs following their return from maternity leave.
Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of TUC, said: “It is illegal to not give someone a job on the grounds that they may have children in the future.
“Employers that do this are not only breaking the law but being incredibly stupid as they are missing out on many of the country’s brightest young workers.”
That such underlying feelings of discrimination underpin the UK employment sector is worrying indeed, and in this day and age, such outlooks carry no rational weight. It is hoped that the enactment of shared parental leave in April next year will aid the deconstruction of such backwards typecasts, keeping the most suitable candidates in the best jobs and allowing the next generation of workers to not be blinded by the foul stench of pregnancy discrimination.