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Committee calls on Government to tackle workplace inequality


A report published today by the Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee has called on the Government to take action on workplace inequality.

The report also urged the Government to do more to tackle female under-representation in certain sectors of the economy.

As well as addressing the worrying lack of comprehensive careers advice, the report recommends the Government set targets for encouraging women into apprenticeship sectors where they are currently under-represented.

The Committee has also urged the Government to take concerted action to improve female representation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The report has said workers should be entitled to ask for flexible working from the outset, not only after they have been in a job for six months.

As well as these recommendations, the Government should establish a voluntary Code of Practice to highlight best practice in the provision of quality part-time and flexible working, and must dispel the myth that any type of flexible working is problematic and cannot work.

Adrian Bailey MP, chair of the BIS committee, said: "Four decades since the Equal Pay Act, we still do not have full workplace equality. We cannot wait another 40 years.

"Comprising over half the population, significant public funds are invested in women. Ensuring they reach their full potential is therefore as much an economic argument as one about equality.

"At the heart of the matter is the need for cultural change. Without this we address symptoms rather than causes."

The report has been welcomed by work/life balance organisation, Working Families, Chief executive, Sarah Jackson.

She said: "We are pleased to see their recommendations that all employees should have a right to request flexible working from the outset, and that we need reliable, consistent data on the extent of flexible working.

"There are strong messages here for Government to take action to become an exemplar in flexible working and for employers to ensure that they are maximising the benefits that flexible work can bring."

Bailey added: The Government has demonstrated a welcome commitment to improving the representation of women on boards. It must now show the same commitment to addressing their under-representation in certain sectors of the economy. This should include a willingness to set targets and, if necessary, to regulate.

"Flexible working is not a women's issue; it affects all employees with caring responsibilities. We must dispel the myth that it is problematic and cannot work."

Ann Pickering, HR director, Telefonica, said: ""Today's call for Government to tackle female under-representation in the workplace is welcome, but it's just one part of the solution.

Ultimately, real change has to come from businesses themselves. It isn't about setting strict quotas or targets, it's about supporting women at all stages - not just at senior management level - and taking action to ensure young women are informed and inspired about the careers available to them."

Pickering added: "If we don't, we run the risk of missing out on the talent and skills of a generation."