Every large business should be obliged by law to carry out equal pay audits – to ensure men aren’t being paid more than women, according to MPs.

The Commons Business Select Committee said firms should be required to publish the findings, so staff can be sure they are treated fairly and managers responsible for setting pay were reminded of the importance of fairness in the workplace.

Midland MP Adrian Bailey (Lab West Bromwich West), the Committee’s chairman, said: “Four decades since the Equal Pay Act, we still do not have full workplace equality. We cannot wait another 40 years.”

Other members of the committee include Robin Walker (Con Worcester) and Nadhim Zahawi (Con Stratford upon Avon).

The Equality Act 2010 already includes a section requiring businesses to publish information about staff wages in order to reveal whether there are differences in the pay of male and female employees, but this has not been put into effect.

Instead, Ministers plan to give employment tribunals the power to order firms to carry out an audit when there is evidence of discrimination.

But the MPs said that the measure should become compulsory for any firm with 250 employees or more.

In a report on women in the workplace, the MPs also called on the Government to improve schools career advice to make sure girls and young women were encouraged to consider careers in science and engineering.

Employees should be entitled to ask for flexible working from the outset, not only after they have been in a job for six months, they said.

And they urged the Government to establish a voluntary Code of Practice to highlight best practice in the provision of quality part-time and flexible working.

The report also called on the Government to reconsider its decisions to introduce fees for pregnancy discrimination cases.

Mr Bailey said: “Comprising over half the population, significant public funds are invested in women.

“Ensuring they reach their full potential is therefore as much an economic argument as one about equality.

“At the heart of the matter is the need for cultural change. Without this we address symptoms rather than causes.

“The early influences children are exposed to are crucial in informing them about career opportunities. As such, the current absence of comprehensive careers advice is a matter of deep concern. The Government must develop an enhanced careers strategy, with careers advice fully incorporated in the work of both primary and secondary schools.”

He added: “Flexible working is not a women’s issue; it affects all employees with caring responsibilities. We must dispel the myth that it is problematic and cannot work.”

And he warned: “The Government’s stated commitment to workplace equality is welcome. Its actions at times, however, not only fail to live up to the rhetoric, but stand in direct contradiction to it.”

Research by The Birmingham Post earlier this year found that women make up just 8.2 per cent of the board on Midland public companies – less than half the equivalent figure for FTSE100 directors.

Only 29 of 351 directors of all West Midlands firms on the London Stock Exchange are female.

The figure represents a tiny improvement compared to last year, when 7.4 per cent were women.

More than half of listed companies in the region still have no female representation at all at the top level.