HC Deb 08 March 2004 vol 418 cc1281-2W
Mr. Jim Cunningham

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what action she is taking to ensure equality between men and women in the workplace. [155807]

Ms Hewitt

The Government are taking action on a number of fronts to ensure equality between men and women in the workplace. We are continuing to improve the workings of the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act, for example through the introduction of the Equal Pay questionnaire in April 2003 and our planned consultation on speeding up and simplifying equal value tribunals. The Government are taking forward policies to tackle the pay gap that help secure equal pay, and broader causes of the pay gap, such as women's lower level of work experience and the part-time pay gap. The Government have led by example in committing all Civil Service departments and agencies to review their pay systems and produce action plans to close any equal pay gaps. The Government have also provided funding for the EOC to develop equal pay tool kits so all organisations can carry out equal pay reviews.

In addition, we are working to remove existing barriers to equality, such as our work to promote women's access to sectors where they are currently under-represented, and to increase diversity in the boardroom. We have introduced measures to help parents maintain links with the world of work and better balance their work and home lives, which will contribute to a reduction of the pay gap. The Government have provided funding to expand childcare provision to meet the changing needs of families. The Government also welcome the EOC's investigation into modern apprenticeships and the concentration of men and women in different professions.