27 May 2015

Two-thirds of people on low pay in the UK are women, with the main reason being that they are largely concentrated in part-time, low-paying occupations, including adult social care, cleaning and commercial catering.

It is estimated that the gender gap in pay and opportunity costs the UK economy up to £23 billion annually.

To help improve this situation, the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) has launched a new competitive fund aimed at generating ideas from businesses to find practical answers to the gap in pay and opportunity between men and women.

UKCES is keen to hear from employers in the sectors mentioned who have a significant proportion (30% or more) of women in their workforce.

Proposals should seek to pilot innovations in good job design (including challenging typical working patterns and practices) for lower-paid women workers. All proposals must be joint investments, with organisations investing in cash, in kind, or both, alongside a maximum government contribution of £180,000 per project.

The total fund available is £1 million and the deadline for funding applications is 13 July.

The business benefits of addressing the issues include reduced staff turnover and recruitment costs, improved staff satisfaction and better customer service, UKCES said.

Launching the new fund, Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary at Unite, and a Commissioner at UKCES, said: "Work by UKCES and others shows how improving productivity is essential if we are to maintain business competitiveness, increase wages and raise living standards. We can only do that by valuing and investing in our whole workforce. It makes no sense to allow large parts of it to go undervalued and underutilised."

Further information about the initiative can be found at http://bit.ly/1R9cTkU.