THE solicitor-general, Vera Baird, has signalled the introduction of new rights for millions of carers of elderly relatives and sick children, raising the prospect of a clash with Lord Mandelson, the business secretary.
Under the proposal, in a bill to be outlined in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, carers who believe they are being unfairly treated because of responsibilities at home could make a claim of “discrimination by proxy” against their employer.
I’m not going to argue that this is a good or a bad idea. Make your own minds up upon that.
The measure will form part of a series of changes to grant new workers’ rghts. Baird also hinted the government could in the long term revive plans to force businesses to carry out equal-pay audits to ensure women are not underpaid.
Baird made it clear that ministers would act if businesses did not show they were serious about closing the pay gap. “If it doesn’t [happen] then, after a limited time, we’ll need to reconsider,” she said.
I’m also not going to argue that this is a good or a bad idea. You can make your own minds up about that.
However, doing the first in order to achieve the second is an insane idea.
Why does the gender pay gap exist? Because, for better or worse, in our society, women take on the greater part of the caring burden. Of caring for children, of caring for parents and other relatives. They thus are less committed (on average of course) to the workplace, to their careers. They work for fewer years, are more likely to work part time, more likely to take career breaks. All of these lead to lower (on average of course) pay.
Insisting that carers, who are overwhelmingly likely to be women, should have greater rights to work part time, to further career breaks, is just going to increase that gender pay gap.
As I say, either idea in isolation can be taken any way you want to. It could be that you are morally outraged by one or other, possibly even both, that carers cannot already claim such rights, that the gender pay gap is an abhorrence. But it’s undeniable that increasing the cause of the pay gap as a way of closing the pay gap is insane.