On 4 November 2015, the Women and Equalities Select Committee launched its inquiry into the gender pay gap. The Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) warmly welcomed the announcement of the inquiry.
In welcoming the inquiry, Ali Harris, Chief Executive of EDF said:
The Women and Equalities Committee has a vital role to play holding Government to account for progress on equality, and informing and strengthening Government strategy. This new inquiry will bring an important and timely focus onto the specific pay gap issues faced by women over 40 – and importantly, what can be done to address them.
The new Women and Equalities Committee asks: Are Government measures to reduce the gender pay gap failing women over 40?
The inquiry to inform Government strategy on reducing the gender pay gap, focusing on women aged over 40, was announced on 4 November by the Women and Equalities Committee. Despite extensive evidence that this is where the gender pay gap is greatest, the Government’s recent announcements devote surprisingly little attention to the issues faced by this particular group.
The Government will be announcing its proposals to tackle the gender pay gap in early 2016. Currently the gap between all male and female employees stands at 19.1% (2014), measured by median gross hourly pay. For all full time employees the gender pay gap is 9.4%, but there are wide variations by age and sector.
Younger women, from 18-39, in full-time work experience a very low or even reversed gender pay gap. ONS data shows the gap for hourly earnings growing from the age of 40 onwards. It is greatest for women in their 50s. This is partly due to the fact that half of women over 50 work part-time, and hourly wages for part-time workers are significantly lower than those for full-time employees.
The gender pay gap is not confined to those working part-time though. Women over 50 working full-time earn 82% of what men of the same age working full-time earn. Some of this discrepancy is down to occupational segregation. At present, two-thirds of women aged over 50 are employed in just three sectors: education, health and retail.
Committee Chair Maria Miller said:
The gender pay gap is mainly a problem for women over 40, and currently hits women in their 50s even harder. However, the measures already announced by the Government don’t target this group. Our inquiry aims to fill this gap in Government thinking. We’ll be asking about barriers to promotion; recruitment and training; problems facing women in predominantly female sectors and non-professional roles – and much more. Our inquiry will make recommendations that will tackle the gender pay gap where it hits the hardest.
Key policies that the Government has already announced include:
- every company with more than 250 employees being required by law to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees
- new steps to compel larger employers to publish bonus information by gender
- gender pay reporting rules being extended to include the public sector, as well as private and voluntary organisations
This inquiry aims to fill that gap by considering three key areas:
- How effective will the Government’s proposals announced so far be in reducing the gender pay gap faced by women aged over 40?
- Are there changes to these proposals that would help to reduce the gender pay gap for this group more quickly or effectively?
- What could be done to improve the position of women aged over 40 regarding recruitment, retention, promotion and training?
The closing date for written submissions was 6 December 2015.