All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said, as it said progress has been “painfully slow”.
The proposal was one of a series suggested by the commission to tackle pay gaps affecting women, disabled people and ethnic minorities.
It said that the change would benefit women and disabled people who are more likely to need flexible working and are often forced to accept part-time jobs that offer lower pay.
The Commission also suggested that businesses should be made to collect annual statistics which set out their pay gaps for ethnic minorities and disabled people.
Extra paternity leave would also help to bring down inequality, it said.
Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top.
“Yes, female representation is important but tackling pay gaps is far more complicated than that. Whilst there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow. We need radical change now otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades to come.”
The EHRC said the Government’s campaign to promote gender equality in the workplace had received little pick-up because “Many companies fail to recognise they have a gender pay gap and therefore take no action to close it; others do not see it as a priority.”
The issue hit the headlines recently when the BBC revealed that two thirds of its top earners were men.
In April it became mandatory for private and voluntary sector organisations with more than 250 employees to report on the gender pay gap within their workforce, and Theresa May promised to extend to the gap between different ethnicities if she won the snap general election in June.
The EHRC is encouraging businesses to voluntarily disclose pay gap details.
In June, the Department for Education became the first Government department to reveal the 5.9 per cent difference between the pay of men and women, saying it was setting an example to other employers on promoting gender equality.
The report also warned that women, disabled people and people from some ethnic minority groups were more likely to be paid less than the living wage.
The EHRC found that the gender pay gap shrunk after the introduction of the national minimum wage, particularly for the lowest paid, but that raising it to the living wage would do little because “so few women occupy the highest-paid jobs”.
The difference in the public sector is lower overall than the private, it said, noting a link between large pay gaps and “the ‘bonus culture’ which is more prevalent in the private sector and which tends to reward men more highly than women”.
University education was found to be a large driver in reducing the pay gap between male and female graduates, which narrowed to 6 per cent in 2014.
The body said employers’ efforts on ethnicity and disability tended to lag behind those on gender, with closing the disability pay gap dubbed a “distant prospect”.
Pay gaps between men with or without neurological or mental health conditions were particularly large, with men with epilepsy experiencing a pay gap close to 40% and men with depression or anxiety having a pay gap of around 30 per cent.
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