The UK government has launched two new initiatives to “level up” employment chances for women as the country continues to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, made the announcement on International Women’s Day that the government will seek to improve pay transparency and help businesses who want to recruit more women.

The government says there is evidence to show listing the salary range on a job advert and not asking applicants to disclose their own salary history provides a better opportunity for women to negotiate fairer pay.

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It is hoped this will have a “significant” impact on closing salary gaps and tackling pay inequality.

The government has moved to launch a pilot scheme where participating employers list salary details on job adverts and stop asking about salary history during recruitment.

A new returners program has also been launched to help women back into STEM science, technology, engineering & math) careers.

The government’s research shows returning to these jobs after time out can present a lot of challenges for women.

The new program is designed to help organizations to recruit and retain talented staff who are often overlooked because of a gap on their CV, with training, development, and employment support to those who have taken time out to look after loved ones.

Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, said: “The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

“We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace. It is essential that we keep women at the forefront of the levelling up agenda as we recover from the pandemic and rebuild together.

“Our second announcement, supporting skilled women to return to STEM careers after care leave, will keep talented minds in STEM and improve the representation of women and marginalised communities in those incredibly important roles.”

A study from the Fawcett Society shows that a requirement to provide salary history makes everyone less confident when negotiating their pay.

It has a particularly negative impact on women’s confidence, with 58 percent of women saying they felt they had received a lower salary offer than they would have if the question had not been asked during the application process.

The Government says it recognizes employers do not have agreed pay scales, and that ambiguous pay policies and historic pay decisions may make it challenging for them to include pay information on job adverts.

The forthcoming pilot pilot will see the government work with employers to develop and pilot a methodology which others can adopt, so that all organisations can provide pay information at the recruitment stage and remove their reliance on questions about pay history if they choose.

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Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society, Chief Executive added: “We are pleased that the government is encouraging employers to remove embedded bias from recruitment practices and supporting our call to End Salary History.

“Asking salary history questions keeps women on lower salaries and contributes to the UK’s gender pay gap – and can mean that past pay discrimination follows women and other groups throughout their career.

“Evidence from US states which have banned asking about past salary shows that is a simple, evidence-led way to improve pay equality for women, people of colour and disabled people.

“This is an important first step. We hope more employers will answer this call, and sign Fawcett’s pledge, as part of other actions to tackle their pay gaps.”

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