Women in work report highlights importance of training and apprenticeships

Self-employed women, who earn an average of 16 per cent less than self-employed men, should be supported with greater training and development opportunities, a new report has said.  The government should also remove any barriers preventing young women embarking on apprenticeships, according to the report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women and Work.  The report, How to Recruit Women for the 21st Century, is the product of a year’s research by the APPG, which is jointly chaired by MPs Jess Phillips and Gillian Keegan.

The recommendation on self-employment is part of IPSE’s (the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed) contribution to the report.  IPSE’s evidence suggests that the gender pay gap among self-employed people is smaller the greater their skill level. The report warned, however, that it was harder for the self-employed to access training because they often struggle to take unpaid days off work for it.

The report also contains a toolkit to help employers “shift the persistent obstacles that women face when entering, progressing in, and returning to the workplace”.  It includes a recommendation to broaden the apprenticeship levy to be used as a training and skills levy. Making the levy more flexible will allow many thousands more temporary workers to benefit from training. To improve fairness in recruiting and selecting candidates allowing women more opportunities in the jobs market, the APPG has also recommended the importance of using recruitment agencies affiliated with trade associations.

Chloé Jepps, IPSE’s Deputy Head of Research, comments: “Women – and particularly mothers – are one of the fastest-growing groups in the self-employed sector. In fact, IPSE’s own research shows that the number of freelance mothers has doubled since 2008. But, as this report shows, like in so many other areas of the workforce there are still far too many obstacles holding them back.

“It is simply unacceptable that in 2019, the average female freelancer still earns 16 per cent less than their male counterpart. It is time for government and industry to step up and address the challenges faced by female freelancers. They should start by opening up more accessible training and development opportunities for female freelancers – and, indeed, all the UK’s self-employed.”