Labour will tomorrow promise a “workplace revolution”, as part of a radical step-change in how women are treated as work.
Shadow women and equalities secretary Dawn Butler will set out how a Labour government will create a ‘Workers’ Protection Agency” that would have the power to fine firms for failing to report or tackle their gender pay gaps.
It will also give workers the right to choose their own hours “from day one of the job”, increase statutory maternity pay to a full year, require large employers to introduce a menopause workplace policy, tackle sexual harassment and enshrine the role of equalities reps in law.
Butler, who is looking to take on the role of deputy leader vacated by Tom Watson this week, will tell supporters the current pay gap is “a disgrace”.
She will say: “Next Thursday, it is equal pay day, the day when women effectively stop getting paid for the rest of the year compared to their male counterparts… I’m sick of how women are treated at work. Audits aren’t enough, we know there’s a problem that needs fixing. So we will do something about it.”
Labour’s plan is to progressively amend gender pay gap reporting regulations, so that by 2020 the threshold is lowered to workplaces with over 50 employees.
But the party’s policies have been seized upon by critics who warned about unintended consequences.
Institute of Economic Affairs’ Kate Andrews said: “Labour’s plans to ‘transform the workplace for women’ are misguided and counter-productive.
“Once again, the gender pay gap is being badly conflated with equal pay. Forcing small businesses to report their gender pay gap data would be a deeply flawed move, as the data is already crude and tells us nothing about equal pay. Small business will struggle to handle the regulatory burdens, not to mention that calculations made up of limited data are often statistically meaningless.”
Federation of Small Businesses’ national chairman Mike Cherry said almost 90 per cent of its members already offered flexible working. “The key is that many small firms do so informally. They don’t have big HR departments to draw on and shouldn’t be put off hiring by bureaucracy.
He added: “The challenge for all political parties is to talk about creating and sustaining jobs, not just fiddling with them. Cutting the jobs tax would be a good start.
“The main political parties are increasingly trying to micromanage employment decisions in small businesses – small firms should not have every employment decision they take vetted by Whitehall.
“The danger is these policies succeed in creating nothing but paperwork.”
Main image: Getty