Firms 'must do more for women'

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The Independent Online

British employers must improve the benefits they offer women if they are to attract and keep high-flyers, recruitment specialists have warned. Among the benefits most likely to help recruit and retain potential applicants are creche facilities, childcare vouchers and extended maternity leave.

At present only 2 per cent of employers provide creche facilities and 4 per cent offer childcare vouchers, according to a survey by Select Appointments, the USM-quoted recruitment agency. Career breaks, usually taken by mothers until their children reach school age, are only available in 11 per cent of companies.

The report said that employers would have to improve on these low percentages, if only because of the long-term changes taking place in the labour market.

"The fall in economic activity has affected the male population to the benefit of female workers," a spokesman said. "Male activity fell by 3.6 per cent between 1990 and 1994, whereas female activity increased by 0.2 per cent.

"The number of women at work has been increasing by almost 1 per cent a year since 1975. Future job creation will be to the benefit of female rather than male workers. This will have an impact on 'female' employment benefits. We can expect some improvement, as far-sighted employers look to attract the best female applicants."

The survey, based on positions advertised through the company's 41 offices throughout the UK, shows that performance-related pay systems are increasing rapidly. Up to 38 per cent of companies now top up their staff's basic wage with bonus payments.

Private medical insurance is an increasingly common perk, with 59 per cent of companies now providing some cover to their employees.

It also shows employees in central London earn 23 per cent more than the national average while in the North-East, average salaries are 12 per cent below the norm.

Specialist qualifications help to minimise wage differentials. Qualified accountants in central London are paid an average pounds 24,000, compared with pounds 22,702 in the Midlands and pounds 23,950 in the North West.

But data entry clerks will earn an average pounds 12,223 in central London, pounds 8,405 in the Midlands and pounds 7,013 in the North East. Credit controllers earn an average pounds 15,500 in London, pounds 12,075 in the M4 corridor and pounds 10,845 in the Midlands.

By contrast, firms in the North tend to be more generous on sick leave. Staff working in central London are allowed an average 29 days absence on full pay each year, while the average in the NorthEast is double that.