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How to close Scotland’s gender pay gap

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Close the Gap, gender pay gap, Scottish government, committee reportScottish government could ‘help close gender pay gap and boost economy by several billion pounds’.

The Scottish government could use devolved powers to help close the gender pay gap, and boost Scotland’s economy, according to a committee report published by the Scottish Parliament recently.

And in its evidence to the committee, the campaigning organisation Close the Gap cited £17.2 billion as the return to the Scottish economy were barriers to women’s participation removed.

The Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee gender pay gap report, ‘No Small Change’, has called on the Scottish government to take action in a range of devolved areas, including making care a priority sector and upskilling women currently compelled to return to lower-paid, lower-skilled jobs after career breaks.

Women have historically clustered in sectors that are traditionally low paid – the “five Cs”: cleaning, caring, catering, clerical, cashiering – and this pattern continues.

However, even in higher paid sectors where women are working in near equal numbers to men, the pay gap persists. For example, in the finance sector, women hold 50 per cent of the positions but are still concentrated in lower paying positions.

According to a gender pay gap report published by the Scottish Parliament’s Information Centre (SPICe), the largest pay gaps are found in skilled trades and management, with finance and insurance the industrial sector with the highest pay gap, at 29.9 per cent. This is a sector where 51 per cent of employees are women.

And although the legal profession in Scotland has seen a dramatic change in gender balance over a short period of time, with 52 per cent of solicitors now female, this has not resolved the significant pay gap within the sector.

The Law Society wrote to the Committee that “male solicitors on average earned more than female solicitors.

“Women featured more prevalently in the £15k to £45k brackets whilst men were more prevalent in the £65k to £150k brackets”.

Women working full-time in Scotland are still earning on average 6.2 per cent less than men.

And progress on closing the pay gap has been so slow that on current trends it will not be eradicated until 2069 – or 99 years after the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

The report’s recommendations include:

Developing an overarching strategy covering all areas of policy where positive steps could be made towards narrowing the pay gap;

Care should become a Scottish government priority sector, acknowledging the importance of the sector 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 Scottish government to learn from the successes of the Modern Apprenticeship programme and develop a new, appropriately resourced programme for people returning to work. Currently, ‘Three in five professional women returning to the workforce being likely to move into lower-skilled or lower-paid roles, experiencing an immediate earnings reduction of up to a third.’ This approach could bring many additional jobs to Scotland;

The Scottish Government, its agencies, and the Scottish Parliament to ensure that they are following best practice principles and ensure 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, in the region of ‘8 per cent of roles that are advertised with a salary of over £20,000 per annum offer some sort of flexible working.’

Other recommendations in the No Small Change report include:

The Committee recognised the role that targets can play in making progress on the gender pay gap issue, and supports their use to produce change;

The Scottish government to consider amending the current procurement regulations to include a question for bidders on their gender pay gap.

Bidders could be asked to calculate and submit their gender pay gap, using the formula stipulated in the 2017 Gender Pay Gap Reporting Duty;

The Scottish government clearly sets out what is expected of the enterprise agencies in relation to addressing the gender pay gap and that it monitors their performance in this area.

The Committee is not persuaded that the enterprise agencies are as fully committed to promoting the Scottish Business Pledge as they might be.

The Committee expects to see the inclusion of ambitious Scottish Business Pledge targets and gender pay measures within future business plans.

The Scottish government to represent the gender pay gap in its National Performance Framework using a measure which includes part-time workers in Scotland.

The current Scottish calculation does not take into account 40 per cent of female workers.

Equal pay claims still exist in Scotland, despite unequal pay on the basis of gender being illegal in the UK for over 40 years.

The Committee recognises this is a contributing factor to the gender pay gap, and calls on all employers to ensure, by carrying out equal pay audits, that their pay systems do not discriminate on grounds of gender.

The Convener of the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee, Gordon Lindhurst MSP, said: “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.

“Each and every one of us is likely to rely on professional care at some time in our lives,” Lindhurst continued.

“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,” he concluded.

“Supporting everyone – both female and male – in all our sectors to achieve their full economic potential will take ambition, innovation and, for some, a shift in cultural thinking.

“But it is within the Scottish government’s power to help make this happen, and the benefits for Scotland’s economy could be significant.”

To see the Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Committee’s report ‘No Small Change’ click here.

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