Labour are right – we should fine employers who don’t fix gender pay gap

Half of you are being paid less than you should be, because of your gender.

Almost fifty years on from the landmark Equal Pay Act, women are still earning on average 17.1% less than men.

For part time workers and older women, the figures are even worse. Look at the figures for those in their 50s and 60s and the difference is 28%. If things continue, it’s been estimated it would take 60 years to reach genuinely equal pay.

That’s completely unacceptable.

As general secretary of Unison, a trade union with a membership of nearly 80% women, I know the terrible impact the pay gap causes, the burden it creates and the injustice it represents.

That’s why I’m delighted Labour has today announced that, in government, it’ll legislate to end the gender pay gap by 2030 by tackling the real, structural barriers holding down women’s pay.

For too long, lip service has been paid to tackling unequal pay, without the real action needed to end it.

So Labour will fine employers who fail to report their gender pay gap, publish plans to tackle it or enact those plans.

That means going further than just compelling companies and public bodies to report their pay gaps in basic terms – it means forcing them to show the action they’re taking to end them.

This isn’t just about women being paid less for the same work, though that is still a big issue in many sectors.

It’s about the huge differences in career opportunities for women. Our research tells us some very specific actions that all employers could adopt would help eliminate this unfairness.

Looking beyond a basic gap to drill down further into what’s happening to part-time workers, older workers or carers will tell employers what areas they may need to address.

Simple changes in recruitment and training practices, plus good policies for supporting working carers, all have a considerable impact in this area. Unions have a huge role to play in supporting employers to introduce new ways of working across their entire organisation.

Simple changes in recruitment and training practices – such as cutting out gendered language and removing non-essential criteria from job ads – plus good policies for supporting working carers can have a considerable impact in this area.

So too can separate policies to support women’s health issues. It’s also key to have senior staff, and particularly men, championing and using flexible working or carers’ leave themselves.

These are straightforward changes for employers that government and unions have a role in supporting.

These proposals from Labour show a commitment to addressing the pay gap that goes way beyond simply reporting the problems to put the emphasis squarely on putting them right.

Unison has been advocating many of these actions for years but, frustratingly, getting nowhere with this current austerity-driven government.

They include recognising the importance of introducing transparent national pay scales for female-dominated work sectors that have always been undervalued by the market – precisely because they’re roles dominated by women, such as childcare and support staff.

Lowering the threshold for reporting (and action) to include employers of 50 staff or more instead of the current 250 is also something we welcome.

Labour has recognised what Unison and other organisations have been saying for years – government leadership on this issue is vital. It must not only champion change and support employers with guidance and advice on eliminating pay gaps, but also lead by example. For instance, it could introduce measures for using government buying power when contracting goods and services to ensure better equality standards.

If this is the shape of things to come then we can all look forward to the economic and social benefits of truly equal pay.

Dave Prentis is the Unison general secretary

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4 Responses to “Labour are right – we should fine employers who don’t fix gender pay gap”

  1. Dave Roberts


  2. Joe

    There is no ‘gender pay gap’.

    The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 outlawed discrimination in pay.

  3. Dave Roberts

    Perhaps the writer of this article would like to defend it. It seems to be a continuing theme here that the most outrageous claims are made for this and that and when they are taken apart the writer is silent.

  4. Jane Johnson

    There is als the fact that women’s pensions, even were wages paid equally, are hit by the ‘Married Women’s Stamp’ (when marriages and shared pensions from spouses were thought to last a lifetime), years taken out of full time work to have and raise children, Mums working part time, flexi-time and zero hours contracts not getting credits, second class stamp rules not explained, home responsibilities protection disqualified in cases of shared or alternate parenting during part of the 52-week year rule for Child Benefit in order to qualify…. I’d like to see how many women actually get a full State Pension, let alone a full work pension. This raising of the age because some people live longer is a joke. What about all those who live less long because of stress, disability, pollution, poverty, environmental factors, faster lifestyle, overcrowding?

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