Equality law fair enough

Female MEP's dressed as men to lobby for equal pay at a recent parliament meeting.

Female MEP's dressed as men to lobby for equal pay at a recent parliament meeting.

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Legislation on equal pay is still “fit for purpose” even though it was drawn up in the 1970s, a Government minister said today.

Voluntary ways of reducing the gender pay gap were working, even though there was a great deal more to do, MPs were told.

Business minister Jo Swinson said she did not think legislation was the problem in closing the gender wage gap, currently at 14.8%.

The choice of which employment sector to work in and taking career breaks to look after children or relatives were partly responsible for this, she told the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee.

A small part of the reasons for the difference in wage rates was “unexplained”, she said.

She added: “It is not always straightforward discrimination.

“There are many cases where it is unintentional.

“The Equal Pay Act is not a magic answer to solving the problem.

“I don’t think we need to change the Act – we need to make sure we make it a reality. It is still fit for purpose.”

Women and equalities minister Maria Miller told the committee it was easy to fall back on legislation, when the cultural and structural issues relating to the gender pay gap had been identified.

The minister said UK workplaces were still “designed by men, for men” and there was still a lot to do before women could play their full part.

A third of the gender pay gap was down to the type of jobs women took up, and another third was because of the time off they took for caring responsibilities, she said.

Overcoming those problems would be a “great success story” for the economy.

The Government was working to tackle the pay gap, such as giving employment tribunals the power to order pay audits in firms as part of changing the culture across industry, said the ministers.