Liberal Democrats achieve important milestone to secure equal pay for women

Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Guildford, Kelly-Marie Blundell, is celebrating Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Business Minister and Minister for Women, Jo Swinson's significant victory to amend new legislation requiring all large businesses to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female staff.

Whilst the Equal Pay Act came into force in 1975, the gender pay gap has stubbornly endured.   Under the coalition, it has fallen to its lowest level, 19.1 per cent but it is still too high.  Despite high levels of women’s employment, the UK has the 8th highest gender pay gap in the EU. 

The Conservative Party had consistently blocked this proposal over the life of the coalition and instead recommended a voluntary approach for companies employing over 250 people.  Over the current government’s term, just five companies chose to publish their gender pay gap data voluntarily.   Further legislation was therefore the only way to bring about the pay parity originally envisaged forty years ago.

Armed with the published information on any pay gaps, staff and customers will now be able to pressure large companies to account for pay discrepancies and so close any pay gap that exists between men and women. 

Commenting on this important milestone, Jo Swinson said, “I could speculate about why the Tories have suddenly changed their view just weeks before the election – maybe the International Women’s Day celebrations caught the PM in a jovial mood? Or perhaps he feared that history (or the voters) would judge him for being on the wrong side of this important argument.”  

“This is the latest in a long line of reforms that the Liberal Democrats have driven through to modernise the workplace to give women a fairer chance to get to the top of the career ladder.   The extension of flexible working, the introduction of shared parental leave and important childcare changes all ensure that there is greater equality at home and at work. 

“We can also be proud that – thanks to our term of stability in government - there are more women in work than ever before and women’s gross weekly earnings have increased between 2013 and 2014.  We have also banned pay secrecy clauses and introduced mandatory pay audits for companies that lose equal pay claims.” 

Prospective Liberal Democrat MP for Guildford, Kelly-Marie Blundell, added:  “We have achieved a lot since 2010, but there is still much more to do.  Equal pay and better gender representation in business is good for the economy and helps to create a fairer society.  We are also committed to tackling occupational gender segregation - the outdated view that some jobs are for “men-only”.   A future coalition that contains Liberal Democrats will ensure that equality in the workplace remains at the forefront of government efforts.”