A woman working on a laptop with a mug of tea in one hand

MPs back Science Council’s call to create more flexible working environments

The House of Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee gender equality report has called for greater job flexible to support parents and carers. This follows the Science Council’s recommendation that the provision of more flexible and longer parental leave would provide parents and carers with greater opportunities to share caring responsibilities.

The report quotes the Science Council’s “radical suggestion of moving to a 4-day working week” as a potential strategy to increase flexible working and also directly acknowledges that our concerns about barriers to women’s progress in science “are the same ones that have recurred across our inquiry”.

Key recommendations

  • All jobs, including part-time ones, should be available to work flexibly unless an employer can demonstrate an immediate and continuing business case against doing so
  • Bring paternity leave pay in line with maternity leave pay (currently 90% of salary), capped for higher earners.
  • Create a National Pathways into Work scheme to harness the skills and experience of women over 40
  • Ensure that apprenticeships are branded to appeal to older workers and, through the new Institute for Apprenticeships, benefit from apprenticeship funding
  • Gender pay reporting should include all organisations with 150 employees or more, broadened to those with more than 50 employees within two years

Science Council response

It is really encouraging that the Committee has picked up a number of the concerns that we have heard from members and across the science community over the past few years.

Reducing the reporting threshold would enable greater measurement on the progress and impact of ongoing schemes and projects that are developed to tackle the gender pay gap. This will be particularly important in science careers as nearly two thirds of scientists work in organisations with fewer than 250 employees.

We will report on the government’s response in due course and will continue to engage with the Committee to keep them informed of the sector’s interests and concerns.

You can still read our blog on 6 ways to achieve gender pay equality. We also recommend you read an excellent blog by Dominic Sheldon on promoting gender equality in the environmental sciences.