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Devolved powers could reduce gender pay gap, MSPs report

27 June 2017

The Scottish Government could use devolved powers to help close the gender pay gap, and boost Scotland’s economy, according to a Holyrood committee report.

MSPs on the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work Committee are calling on the Government develop a strategy covering a range of policy areas, including making care a priority sector and upskilling women currently compelled to return to lower paid, lower skilled jobs after career breaks.

Their report, No Small Change, cites a 2016 study that claims that three in five professional women returning to the workforce are likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immediate earnings reduction of up to a third.

It states that ministers should learn from the successes of the Modern Apprenticeship programme and develop a new, appropriately resourced programme for people returning to work, an approach that the report claims could bring many additional jobs to Scotland – as well as economic benefits in the tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds.

Government and its agencies, along with the Scottish Parliament, should ensure they are following best practice principles and that all roles are advertised as flexible, agile or part-time, unless there is a business reason not to do so. The committee was told that currently, UK-wide, only around 8% of roles that are advertised with a salary of over £20,000 per annum offer some sort of flexible working.

Care should be a priority sector for Government action, given its importance to Scotland’s economy. Improving pay, conditions and the status of the child, adult and elderly care sectors would not only reduce the gender pay gap but also help recruit a more balanced workforce, the report states.

Other recommendations include:

  • Targets should be set for progress on the gender pay gap issue, as these can help produce change.
  • Ministers should consider amending the current procurement regulations to include a question asking bidders to calculate and submit their gender pay gap, using the formula in the 2017 Gender Pay Gap Reporting Duty.
  • They should also clearly set out what is expected of the enterprise agencies in relation to addressing the gender pay gap and monitor their performance in this area.
  • Questioning whether the enterprise agencies are as fully committed to promoting the Scottish Business Pledge as they might be, the committee wants to see ambitious Scottish Business Pledge targets and gender pay measures included in future business plans.
  • The gender pay gap as measured in the National Performance Framework should take account of part-time workers. The current Scottish calculation does not take into account 40% of female workers.
  • All employers should carry out equal pay audits to ensure that their pay systems do not discriminate on grounds of gender.

Committee convener Gordon Lindhurst MSP commented: “The Committee is clear there is a gender pay issue for Scotland’s workforce. Women across Scotland’s economy are still concentrated in low paid jobs and part time work. The pay gap primarily affects women and isn’t just attributable to women choosing to start a family or to take time out of their careers."

He continued: “Each and every one of us is likely to rely on professional care at some time in our lives. Despite the radical change in skills over the years, this continues to be one of the lowest paying, female worker dominated sectors in Scotland. We want to see the Government address this issue by prioritising the care sector; it is vital that we raise the status of care in Scotland." 

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