SNP MP demands flexible working guarantee for women to deliver equal pay
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Anum Qaisar asked what steps the UK Government has taken to help ensure that women have equitable pay. It follows a private members’ Bill being brought making it easier to request flexible working, something the Airdrie and Shotts MP suggests still leaves the power with employers.
Responding to her question, women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had earlier indicated support for the bill, and praised her own Government’s record.
She said: “The gender pay gap has fallen by approximately a quarter in the last decade, the Conservative Government introduced gender payback reporting building on the paper protections we already have in the Equality Act and this has motivated employers to look at their pay data and improve workplace gender equality”.
Responding to Ms Qaisar’s question, the senior minister suggested the private members’ Bill was enough.
She said: “The honourable lady will know that we are supporting the employment relations flexible working private members’ Bill, which will deliver changes including that employers will be required to consult with an employee as a means of exploring alternative options before rejecting a request for flexible working.
"Employees will no longer have to explain the impacts of their requested arrangement to the employer and we think that will go a long way to resolve the issues around flexible working.”
Speaking to The Scotsman, Ms Qaisar urged the UK Government to go further, warning women should not have to worry about the costs of childcare.
She said: “While the SNP welcome the Employment Relations Flexible Working Private Members’ Bill, we still think that it doesn’t go far enough. In the chamber, I called for flexible working as a day one right, rather than what the Private Members’ Bill is proposing, which is the right to request. Every change in the right direction is good, but it needs to go further if we are to fully alleviate the entrenched gender inequality that exists within our society.
“Women’s work is so often undervalued and underpaid, and ensuring that flexible working is a day one right is just one way that the UK Government can help women in breaking down the barriers built up by gender inequality. Employees, especially women, should not have to worry about the costs of childcare or whether flexible working is an option or not, especially when it was reported in 2022 that women took home on average £564 less per month than men.
“The Private Members’ Bill that Kemi Badenoch outlined in her response would only give women a right to request flexible work, and is not a day one right for every employee to have flexible work. This is where the key difference lies. The proposed reforms still put the onus on the employees to request this, and even at that it is not a given that the employer will honour the request. I hope that the UK Government listen to the calls from the SNP benches and understand that measures proposed through this private members’ Bill must go further."
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