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Fair Play Champions join the drive to equal pay


Employment Minister Tessa Jowell yesterday hosted the first meeting of the Fair Pay Champions, leaders in their fields who will work with government to spearhead the drive towards equal pay across the private and public sector. Ms Jowell also announced plans to extend the work-based 'Taster Day' programme to women who want to return to work after time out of the labour market.

The Fair Pay Champions are advocates for fair pay from a wide range of business backgrounds – large employers, SMEs and trades unions. They will work to share good practice and heighten awareness of employment rights and responsibilities amongst their peers.

They will also promote initiatives such as improving access to higher level jobs for part-time workers and ensuring that women's skills are not lost to the labour market following a break from paid employment. The Fair Pay Champions will play a strategic role in working with the Kingsmill Review, acting as a source of information and experience, and as a sounding board for ideas.

The new 'Taster Day' programme will build on the success of the current government initiative, Taster Days for Girls. This small scale, and over-subscribed, pilot is a practical example of how the Government is raising aspirations and broadening the horizons of girls, introducing them to occupations that they would not have contemplated and helping to address future skills shortages. By April 2002, with further support for businesses, the aim is for every girl in every part of the country to have access to this high quality work experience.

Speaking at the meeting, Tessa Jowell said, "In our drive to reduce the pay gap and improve employment opportunities for women, the Fair Pay Champions will spearhead the drive to change culture and rule out discrimination in business, as well as publicly promote the benefits of equality in pay and help to increase awareness of existing rights among employers and workers. And the Women's Employment and Pay Review, headed by Denise Kingsmill, will work to find ways to challenge the culture of low pay, to increase opportunities and to reverse the situation where women face discrimination at every level of the labour market.

"There is a need to recognise the extent to which the revolution in women's working lives has not been matched by a similar revolution in working practices. The result being a pay gap due not only to discrimination, but also to the type of jobs women go into. We want to increase the number of high-quality employment opportunities available to women. We need to help women to break into jobs they may have not previously considered ' such as information, communication and technology. One way to do this is to encourage women who have taken time out of paid work – perhaps because of caring responsibilities – to look at the different options available.

"That is why we are looking at extending the programme of 'Taster Days for Girls', which aims to open up a wider choice of careers and better paid employment opportunities for young women. 'Taster Days' for returners will enable women to experience first hand how the world of work has changed while they have been away, and see the full range of opportunities that are now available. It will help to break the low pay cycle that impacts upon the pay gap. This experience, plus training and real practical help where and when they need it most, will help give them a real choice for the future.

"We will be working over the summer with key strategic partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors to further develop this initiative. Together, the 'Taster Day' programme, the work of the Employment and Pay Review and Fair Pay Champions will provide a great start towards reducing the pay gap, within a wider context of improving the quality of work."

Denise Kingsmill said, "If employers are to successfully compete for the best talent, they must look carefully at the range of opportunities and pay on offer to women as well as men. It makes good business sense for them to make sure their policies and practices on flexible working conditions, diversity and pay equality attract the best people."


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