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Making Pay Work For Women

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An action plan to make work pay for women, developed by the Equal Pay Task Force, was published yesterday by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). Julie Mellor, Chair of the EOC, said that Just Pay is a milestone in the battle to close the gender pay gap.

Central to the recommendations, which include action for employers, unions and the Government, is the call for a change in the law to require employers to review their pay systems to ensure they do not discriminate against women.

Julie Mellor said, “The UK has the worst record in Europe on equal pay. Many employers don’t even realise that their pay system could be biased against women, but they have a crucial part to play in reducing the pay gap. We set up the Equal Pay Task Force to find out what needs to be done to root out pay discrimination.

“Britain can’t afford to ignore the pay gap. Closing the gap will be good for women, good for their families and good for the economy. To get equality into the pay packet we need the commitment of all key players – employers, the unions and the Government.”

Bob Mason, Chair of the Equal Pay Task Force said, “Over the last year we have talked about the pay gap to employers, unions and individuals around the country, as well as examining research and expert opinions. We found a worrying lack of awareness of the problem, and even where people knew about the pay gap, they simply didn’t have the tools to tackle it. Unequal pay is unjust and unlawful, it’s time we did something about it.”

Tessa Jowell, Minister for Employment said, “In their working lifetime, women with average skills earn £241,000 less than a man with equivalent skills. This is not an acceptable price to pay for being a woman. This government is firmly committed to a renewed drive to close the pay gap. We broadly welcome the findings of the EOC’s Task Force report and are already taking action to speed up and simplify employment tribunals. We are also giving financial backing to the EOC’s work with businesses and trade unions to develop voluntary pay reviews.

“Women too need to be more aware of their existing employment rights and recent legislation so they can play their part in getting equality in the workplace.”

The Task Force came up with recommendations for action in five areas:

  • publicising the facts – this involves action by the EOC, employer bodies like the CBI, and the unions
  • improving equal pay legislation, introducing mandatory pay reviews and a streamlined tribunal process
  • improved guidance for employers and unions and a Government requirement for pay reviews in the public sector
  • opening up discussion about pay, with reporting of pay reviews in employers’ annual report
  • the Government should use policies such as the National Minimum Wage the National Childcare Strategy, and the National Skills agenda to help narrow the pay gap.

The Gender Pay Gap: A Research Review is also published today by the EOC. Its findings informed the Task Force’s recommendations.

Commenting on the research, Julie Mellor said, “British women don’t choose to be low paid. Discrimination in pay exists and must be tackled. We could also learn from the example of other countries, where part-time work does not have to mean low paid and low status work, or where areas of work dominated by women are not necessarily undervalued. In the Netherlands the average hourly wages of women working part-time are 93% of full-timers. In Australia women nurses earn 18% more per hour than men across the workforce.”

The report concludes that individual women can’t shape pay systems. Closing the pay gap requires action by Government, employers and trade unions.

The EOC is also unveiling an innovative new cinema advertising campaign that will be seen by around 2 million people at cinemas across the country from the end of March.

Commenting on the recommendations of the Equal Opportunities Commission Independent Equal Pay Task Force Report, TUC General Secretary John Monks said, “We welcome this impressive report. It offers many solutions which would help narrow the gender pay gap which despite 30 years of equal pay legislation remains depressingly wide. Wherever pay discrimination exists, trade unions have done a great job challenging the bad employers who think they can get away with paying their female staff less.

“But we are disappointed that the government is not to accept the Task Force recommendations that the law be changed to force employers to carry out gender pay reviews. We are pleased that the government is to give the EOC money to develop pay review models which all good employers will no doubt take up. But sadly there is nothing here to make the bad employers comply.”


Both reports are available for download from the Equal Pay Task Force’s website

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