Page last updated at 16:12 GMT, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Government pledges action on gender pay gap

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The government is determined to tackle the problem of gender pay inequality, peers have been told.

Baroness Verma said the government wanted to see "greater transparency" in pay to overcome the "continuing issues" on the gender pay gap.

Lady Verma, government spokeswoman on equality and women's issues, was speaking as she opened a Lords debate on International Women's Day, on 1 March 2012.

The debate, which attracted more than 35 speakers, focused on the contribution of women to the economy.

Addressing peers, Lady Verma drew attention to the launch last September of a new voluntary framework on gender pay.

"The Think Act report asks private and voluntary sector employers to help tackle the pay gap through greater transparency on pay and other issues," she said.

The minister added that the government was working closely with business to extend the right to flexible working to all employees, whilst minimising the administrative cost to firms.

Lady Verma also paid tribute to Labour peer Lord Davies of Abersoch's work on increasing female representation at boardroom level.

Lord Davies later added that FTSE 100 failing to appoint women should be "named and shamed"; whilst Lord Smith of Clifton, a Liberal Democrat peer, called for "positive action" to ensure more women win places on the boards of major companies.

Lord Smith said David Cameron should lead by example and bring in a target in the Queen's Speech to achieve up to 40% women Cabinet ministers.

Labour claimed women were "bearing the brunt" of the economic downturn, with some women missing meals in order to feed their children.

Baroness Thornton added that the government's policies were also having a "very detrimental effect" on women's lives.

"We know that women are suffering hugely in redundancies. We know that unemployment amongst women between 50 and 64 has rocketed by 20% in the last year."

She acknowledged the work the government had done to help women at work, but added: "I think we need to address the very real issues that this economic downturn and this government's policies are having a very detrimental effect on women's lives in this country."

The motion taking note of International Women's Day on 8 March was agreed without a vote at the end of the debate.

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