BUSINESSES and the Government must radically shake up their practices if gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps are to be abolished, Britain’s national equality body has said.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said progress had been “painfully slow” and that radical change was needed to eradicate inequality within the workplace.

It is calling for all jobs to be advertised as available for flexible working, and for paternity leave incentives to encourage fathers to help share childcare responsibilities.

Gender stereotyping in education must be challenged, while employers are being encouraged to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay.

The EHRC also wants the Government to extend new legislation to compel businesses to report on ethnicity and disability pay gaps between their employees.

The gender pay gap, which has been steadily falling over the years, currently stands at 18.1 per cent while the ethnic minority pay gap is 5.7 per cent and the disability pay gap 13.6 per cent.

The EHRC said the Government’s campaign to promote gender equality in the workplace had received little pick-up because “many companies fail to recognise they have a gender pay gap and therefore take no action to close it; others do not see it as a priority.”

The issue hit the headlines recently when the BBC revealed that two thirds of its top earners were men.

In April it became mandatory for private and voluntary sector organisations with 250+ employees to report on the gender pay gap within their workforce, and Theresa May promised to extend to the gap between different ethnicities if she won the snap general election in June.

The EHRC is encouraging businesses to voluntarily disclose pay gap details.

In June, the Department for Education became the first Government department to reveal the 5.9 per cent difference between the pay of men and women, saying it was setting an example to other employers on promoting gender equality.

Caroline Waters, deputy chair of the EHRC said: “The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of the work we still need to do to achieve equality for all.

“Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths.

“These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression.

“For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.”

The recommendations draw on analysis of data from the Labour Force Survey and the main causes of pay gaps.

The EHRC found that the gender pay gap shrunk after the introduction of the national minimum wage, particularly for the lowest paid, but that raising it to the living wage would do little because “so few women occupy the highest-paid jobs”.

The difference in the public sector is lower overall than the private, it said, noting a link between large pay gaps and “the ‘bonus culture’ which is more prevalent in the private sector and which tends to reward men more highly than women”.

University education was found to be a large driver in reducing the pay gap between male and female graduates, which narrowed to 6% in 2014.

The body said employers’ efforts on ethnicity and disability tended to lag behind those on gender, with closing the disability pay gap dubbed a “distant prospect”.

Pay gaps between men with or without neurological or mental health conditions were particularly large, with men with epilepsy experiencing a pay gap close to 40 per cent.