23 January 2018
The European Scrutiny Committee has warned that the government has not been clear as to how it will protect equality pay legislation following Brexit.
Geraint Davies, a Labour MP and member of the Committee, told the Independent they are concerned that “the gender pay gap could get wider after Brexit, not narrower”.
He explained: “We have written to the government asking what action it will take to reduce the gender pay gap and to enforce progress and then I will be pressing the Committee to summon a minister for cross-examination.
“Brexit threatens to put Britain into reverse gear in terms of equal pay for women which would be a disaster as women have already disproportionately suffered from government austerity.”
In November, the European Commission released an action plan on equal pay that included providing workers with the right to request information on equal pay from their employers, and mandated Member States to ensure those paid unequally received compensation, as well as to put sanctions in place for those not following the rules.
But the European Scrutiny Committee warned that the government has not been clear about how it will protect this legislation once the UK leaves the EU, prompting concern among campaigners, including Women’s Equality Party leader Sophie Walker, that the government will attempt to avoid the new laws.
“The Government must not use Brexit to wriggle out of its responsibility to tackle the pay gap between men and women,” she told the Independent.
She called for “a crackdown on outright pay discrimination, as well as action to address the structural inequalities – such as the cost of childcare, the fact that women do the majority of unpaid care, a failure to make sure boys and girls are instilled with equal aspirations and opportunities – that lie beneath the pay gap”.
The European Scrutiny Committee has passed the issue to the House for debate and to the Women and Equalities Committee.
Although a government spokesperson told the Independent the Conservative Party is committed to reversing the gender pay gap and that new gender pay gap reporting rules are “not an option, it is the law”, the legislation has faced wide criticism for failing to put any sanctions in place whatsoever for firms who do not comply. So far, only 4% of eligible companies have released their data.
Furthermore, new research from law firm Wilson’s has revealed that the gender pay gap among the UK’s top earners has increased by an enormous 23% over just five years, with 470,500 fewer women than men earning over £100,000 compared with 2010/11.