Action on gender inequalities

New plan to tackle pay gap.

Steps to tackle gender discrimination and inequalities in the workplace have been set out in the Scottish Government’s first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan.

The gender pay gap in Scotland for full-time employees has decreased from 6.6% in 2017, to 5.7% in 2018.

The plan will help the Scottish Government meet its commitment of reducing the gender pay gap by 2021. There are over 50 actions, including:

  • Supporting 2,000 women to return to work after a career break through the new Women Returners Programme worth £5 million over three years, building on the success of a pilot project run since 2017
  • Improving workplace practices, including support for women during menopause and for victims of domestic abuse, through the expansion of the Workplace Equality Fund
  • Delivering a new careers strategy by autumn 2019 to provide advice and accessible guidance which will help to challenge stereotypes
  • Refreshing the gender and diversity element of the Scottish Business Pledge
  • Showing leadership as an employer by undertaking a Scottish Government Equal Pay Audit as well as researching the ways businesses can reduce their gender pay gaps
  • Urging the UK Government to strengthen and enforce the protection of women and carers against discrimination and dismissal – including strengthening paternity leave rights and introducing ‘safe leave’ which would provide victims of domestic violence with additional leave
  • Promoting gender equality within early learning and child care, schools, colleges, universities and within employment support and the social security system
  • Commissioning a feasibility study for a ‘What Works Centre for Flexible Work’ to design, test and embed new approaches to increasing the availability of flexible working – in particularly for low income parents

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon launched the plan today at Business Gateway’s Women in Business event in Edinburgh to mark International Women’s Day. She said: 

“The package of measures set out in Scotland’s first Gender Pay Gap Action Plan are a historic landmark in our march to achieving gender equality and closing the gender pay gap.

“While the gender pay gap in Scotland is now the lowest on record and lower than the UK as a whole we still have much progress to make, which requires long term solutions not short term fixes.

“Our plan sets out a whole system approach across public, private and third sectors and looks at breaking down the cause of the gender pay gap throughout a young girl’s life – from challenging gender stereotyping in early years learning and schools to supporting employers to adopt inclusive and flexible workplace practices to help mothers return to work after a career break. 

“This plan is not just about supporting girls and women to participate equally in our labour market.  It is also about promoting and installing fair work principles and setting out the benefits these can bring to all individuals, employers and the Scottish economy.”

Emma Ritch, Engender’s executive director said:

“Engender is delighted to welcome this forward-thinking plan for tackling the multiple causes of the gender pay gap. It is rare to see a national strategy on women’s workplace inequality that gets to grips with some of the critical systemic influencers like social security, employability programme design, and violence against women.  

“The Scottish Government’s laudable approach to developing the plan included strong engagement with pay gap specialists Close the Gap and Engender, Scotland’s feminist policy advocacy organisation. Engaging with gender experts is key to ensuring that policymaking advances women’s equality, and we are pleased to see Scottish Government continue to develop innovative approaches to policy.”

Anna Ritchie Allan, executive director of Close the Gap, said:

“Close the Gap is delighted to welcome Scotland’s first gender pay gap action plan. There’s never been a cohesive strategic approach to tackling Scotland’s pay gap, so it’s refreshing to see the breadth of ambition in this seminal plan which contains a number of bold actions.

“It critically recognises that the causes of the pay gap reach far beyond the workplace, with change also necessary in education, in the distribution of unpaid care, and in the way the Scottish Government and delivery agencies develop policy.”

Professor Patricia Findlay, co-chair, Scotland's Fair Work Convention said:

“Addressing the gender pay gap and the complex factors that interact to sustain women's disadvantage in the workplace is crucial to delivering fair work in Scotland.  An ambitious plan to reduce gender inequalities at work is good for women, their families and their communities.

“Employers benefit where women's talents are recognised, harnessed and valued. In short, these measures to advance  gender pay equality can deliver for Scotland's people, economy and society.”


The Gender Pay Gap Action Plan is available to view.  

A detailed analysis paper which sets out the main causes of the gender pay gap and uses a logic model to examine how the policy commitments in the action Pplan can be expected to impact the gender pay gap and gender equality more broadly has also been published. The report also considers the ways in which gender intersects with other characteristics such as ethnicity and disability.

As announced in the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Delivery Plan in March 2018, a Gender Pay Gap Working Group was established to inform the development of the Scottish Government's Gender Pay Gap Action Plan. 

Social enterprise Timewise will lead on the ‘What Works Centre for Flexible Work’ feasibility study, working with a wide range of Scottish partners.  

The gender pay gap for full-time employees has decreased from 6.6% in 2017, to 5.7% in 2018, while gender pay gap for all employees has decreased from 16.0% in 2017 to 15.0% in 2018. The gender pay gap for full-time employees at 5.7% in Scotland in 2018 is lower than 8.6% for the UK as a whole.

The Women Returners Programme builds on the £235,000 returners’  fund which was launched in 2017 as a pilot.

The introduction of ‘safe leave’ is based on New Zealand’s “Victims Protection Bill” that requires employers to give victims of domestic violence up to 10 days leave from work, separate from annual holiday and sick leave.


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