Baroness Buscombe: G7 members must commit to eliminating unequal pay by 2030
Despite decades of equality legislation across G7 members, there is still a big difference between the average earnings of men and women. As we leave the EU, the UK has a chance to set out our global leadership on issues which affect the day to day lives of all UK workers, says Baroness Buscombe.
Today I’ll be joining other employment and welfare ministers from the world’s largest advanced economies at the G7 meeting in Paris.
I go there with a success story to share on employment in the UK. Under this Conservative Government, 3.7 million more people have entered work since 2010, providing the security of a regular pay packet and dignity of work.
In Paris, I will lead the UK delegation to discuss further opportunities and challenges that we all face, such as the changing nature of work as a result of technological disruption and gender imbalance in work and pay.
Because, as we leave the EU, the UK has a chance to set out our global leadership on issues which affect the day to day lives of all UK workers.
Our response to the ‘Gig Economy’ and new types of demand-led work is already showing that.
We are implementing the vast majority of recommendations from the Good Work Plan, resulting from a far-reaching independent review of modern working practices commissioned by the Prime Minister.
Giving all workers the right to a written statement of employment rights from day one, and a right to a payslip, shows how Governments can enforce the rights of casual workers while acknowledging that many people benefit from choosing their own hours.
Our welfare reforms are also built on that understanding. We recognise that a full-time 9-5 role is a big step for many jobseekers. That’s why Universal Credit adjusts benefit payments so taking on any level of work always leads to more money.
By supporting claimants to manage their benefits online we are also helping them build the basic digital skills which are so vital in the modern workplace.
A fifth of all adults in the UK lack basic digital skills, including many in work. As more roles become reliant on those skills, programmes like our National Retraining Scheme, combined with new national standards for the digital skills which adults need, will also help jobseekers and workers alike.
So I will be welcoming the unprecedented investment the UK and other G7 countries have taken in reskilling and upskilling workers as well as the commitment of the G7 Employment Task Force to create more understanding about the opportunities offered by digitalization and automation.
But regardless of those new technologies and opportunities, it is pretty staggering that in the 21st Century, despite decades of equality legislation across G7 members, there is still a big difference between the average earnings of men and women.
It is something I’ve seen first-hand in my career, remembering the interview panel for a senior legal role at a global banking firm who informed me that there were ‘no secretarial roles available’.
I’m proud that the UK Government has taken a lead in tackling this. Following new legislation - 10,000 large employers have just published the pay difference between male and female staff for the second time. So we can all see where the gaps still exist and where action is needed.
I’m especially proud that my own Department for Work and Pensions is leading the pack as an employer, with a gender pay gap of zero per cent among our more than 83,000 employees.
I’ll be tasking my G7 colleagues to see what more we can do internationally. In particular, committing to a new international standard in the International Labour Organisation to stamp out harassment and violence in the workplace.
I’ll also be announcing our intention to join the ILO’s Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), and calling on other G7 members to do the same. I’m proud to share the EPIC’s commitment to achieving full employment opportunities for women, men and those with disabilities, eliminating unequal pay altogether by 2030.
So I look forward to today’s discussions, proving that international co-operation can have a real impact on all our lives and that, as we leave the EU, the UK can play an even greater role in delivering that.
Baroness Buscombe is Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department of Work and Pensions.