POLITICS
04/10/2013 10:39 BST | Updated 04/10/2013 10:53 BST

Women Should Ask Men About Their Salaries, Says Minister Jo Swinson

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Women should ask male colleagues how much they earn to see if they are receiving equal pay, women and equalities minister Jo Swinson has said.

Swinson said the British reluctance to talk about money "holds women back" and warned the Government could implement legislation forcing large firms to reveal the pay gap between the genders unless voluntary measures are successful.

The LibDem minister acknowledged that being open about salaries could be uncomfortable but it could also be the "catalyst" for female workers to seek pay rises.

Speaking to Elle magazine, which has campaigned on the gender pay gap, Swinson said: "I think sometimes there's something very British in our culture where we don't talk about money, and I think that holds women back.

"If they realised they were earning significantly less than male colleagues at a similar level, that might be the catalyst they need to ask for a pay rise."

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She added: "It's not like everyone's going to be comfortable about that, but trying to create a culture where people are open about these things can only help.

"One of the things that I think is brilliant about the Elle campaign is encouraging people to open up about their pay. It's definitely something we should be encouraging women to feel confident about."

There is legislation in place which could force companies to report their gender pay gap but the Government has not enacted it, preferring its voluntary Think, Act, Report scheme encouraging companies to publish as much information as possible.

But Swinson said: "I would agree that while the pay gap is reducing a bit, it's not reducing enough, given that we're 40 years on from the initial legislation to say that men and women ought to be paid equally.

"I think we need to recognise that the Government does have the power to impose equal pay audits, and it may well be that if we do not see success through Think, Act, Report, that might be the only way to make this happen."

The Government did not enact plans, inherited from Labour, to make the pay audits mandatory but it has given employment tribunals the power to force employers who break equal pay laws to carry out the reviews.

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