THE SNP has called on the UK Government to either strengthen employment law to tackle sexism or devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The party is calling for closing the gender pay gap to be made a priority in 2022, while SNP MP Angela ­Crawley plans to continue campaigning for paid miscarriage leave.

Employment law is reserved to Westminster and the SNP wants these issues to be tackled or the ­powers to do so given to Holyrood.

The gender pay gap increased across the UK last year but ­Scotland has a smaller gap than the UK ­average, and has done so for the past five years.

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In 2021, the gap was was 15.4%, up from 14.9% in 2020, but remains below the 17.4% gap in 2019, according to Office for National Statistics figures. This is down from 27.5% at the start of the series in 1997.

Scotland also recorded an increase in the gap, between 11.1% in 2020 and 11.6 in 2021, but this was below the 2019 figure of 14.4%.

In 1997, Scotland’s gender pay gap was 18.4%.

SNP MSP Gillian Martin said: “The gender pay gap may be smaller in Scotland than it is across the UK, but our economy could benefit by a further £15 billion if we had the ­powers to tackle that gap and work to close it for good.

“To help us do that, the UK Government must either strengthen employment law, or devolve employment law to the Scottish Parliament.”

The party is also calling for at least three days of paid leave for women and their partners who have a miscarriage before 24 weeks, as currently they have to rely on their ­employers’ discretion, or take sick or annual leave.

Crawley’s private members’ bill on the issue failed to progress at Westminster but she vowed to continue fighting to bring about the change.

In April 2020, the UK Government introduced two weeks paid leave for parents who experience pregnancy loss after 24 weeks.

Crawley said: “Parents who experience a miscarriage or stillbirth at any stage of their pregnancy deserve to be properly supported and given the time they may need to grieve and process their loss, without worrying about a hit to finances or taking ­annual leave.

“It was heartening that MPs from across the house backed the ­campaign, which shows there is a clear consensus at Westminster.

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“And the fact that almost 30,000 people signed the petition shows this is not an issue that the Tory ­government can easily brush under the ­carpet.

“But parents shouldn’t have to wait for Westminster to act. I hope the UK Government will see sense and make this important change to the law – or, at the very least, devolve the powers to the Scottish Parliament so we can introduce it ourselves in Scotland.”

A UK Government equality hub spokesperson said: “The national ­gender pay gap has fallen ­significantly under this government and by ­approximately a quarter in the last decade, with 1.9 million more women in work than in 2010. This is a result of this ­Government enacting legislation for the right to flexible working, shared parental leave and pay, including a new online tool to check eligibility, and doubling free childcare for eligible working parents.

“We will shortly put forward a range of measures to advance equality for women at work, increasing opportunity and tackling the issues that are holding women back.”