Let’s not forget that the Gender Pay Gap reporting requirement is Jo’s Law

There was an urgent question in the House of Commons today about the Gender Pay Gap. Harriet Harman asked the Government what it was doing to close the gender pay gap after companies with more than 250 employees were required to report for the first time.

The minister Victoria Atkins was very supportive of the legislation. If you didn’t know better, you might be inclined to think that the Tories had introduced it:

It is unacceptable that in 2018 there are still differences in how men and women are paid in business and in industries. That is why this Government introduced new regulations, which came into force in 2017, requiring all employers with 250 or more employees to report their gender pay gap. I am delighted that as of yesterday 10,055 employers, covering all sectors of the economy, have reported their gender pay gap. These new regulations have shone a light on the injustice that has existed for too long and created a new conversation on the need for a step change in gender equality.

This is all very well, except the truth of the matter is that in the dying days of the Coalition Government, the Tories had to be dragged kicking and screaming to agree to the Liberal Democrats’ plan. Jo Swinson was the Liberal Democrat Minister who introduced the legislation and she reminded the Commons of that today:

The reason why I fought so hard as a Minister in the coalition Government to win the battle to introduce gender pay gap reporting—despite the Minister’s obvious commitment to this today, my goodness it was a battle with No.10 at the time—is that the visibility and transparency of hard numbers help to pierce the bubble of complacency in boardrooms, in newsrooms and in our living rooms where some people still think that we live in a world of gender equality. What concrete action are the Government taking to help employers understand that the gender pay gap is about unequal pay and so much more? It is about the fact that jobs in care and other roles are undervalued and low paid because they are predominantly done by women. It is about the 54,000 women a year who lose their job because they have a baby. It is about the toxic workplace cultures where the boys’ clubs make the decisions and sexual harassment is endemic. Time is up on pathetic excuses. It is time that organisations got serious about action.

Ms Atkins was forced to admit Jo’s role:

I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady and hope that she will forgive me for not including her in my roll-call of honour of female Members who have helped on this issue.

Of course, by “helped” she means ensured the legislation was passed by the Commons.

Harriet Harman is usually pretty supportive of female colleagues but I didn’t see her acknowledge Jo’s role either.

The Gender Pay legislation is Jo’s Law and we should never let people forget that.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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