Received from: TUC Women's Conference
Life has changed intensely for many women over the past 40 years. The hopes and opportunities offered to women have grown beyond recognition. Despite this progress women are still underrepresented in high-ranking positions and overrepresented in low-skilled, low-paid, part-time, precarious work.
In today’s environment too many women find themselves being corralled into jobs below their skills and abilities because of childcare and domestic responsibilities. Moreover, women continue to face maternity discrimination, sexual harassment in the workplace and are discriminated against in terms of pay.
In the year since the government introduced a requirement for UK employers to disclose their gender pay gap, there has been no significant change. All sectors continued to pay men more than women in 2019.
Official Office for National Statistics data record a gender pay gap of 17.3 per cent, one of the highest in Europe. The gap is largest for women in their 50s and 60s – 28 per cent.
2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Labour’s landmark Equal Pay Act inspired by the women strikers at the Ford car plant in Dagenham.
When introducing the Act, Ted Heath declared that employers would need five years to bring women’s pay into line with men’s. However, after 50 years the latest estimate is that, on the current rate of progress, it will take another 60 years to achieve equal pay.
Congress condemns the fact that so many women are still being cheated out of pay and pension contributions because of a lack of workplace pay parity.
Pay transparency is a vital part of winning equal pay for women. Women in trade unions are more likely to know their pay. Congress welcomes equal pay initiatives across the trade union movement such as the case of NUJ member and BBC presenter Samira Ahmed in November 2019.
Congress notes that there is no provision in UK employment law to bring class actions, which means every individual woman’s claim must be separately argued, unless settlement can be agreed for groups of women.
The number of women in employment is higher than ever before but half a century later, the law is failing to deliver equal pay. This woeful situation can’t be allowed to continue.
Congress recognises that progress has been too slow. We urgently need a new deal for women workers in the UK.
Congress calls on the TUC Women’s Committee and affiliates to:
i. call for mandatory reporting of gender pay gap action plans
ii. campaign for reform of the law on equal pay so that employers are held to account
iii. campaign for class actions in this area of employment law
iv. support pay transparency initiatives – ensuring any woman can ask their employer to provide information about the pay of a male colleague and an employer is compelled to comply
v. lobby for a new Equal Pay Bill
vi. provide support and leadership to trade unions for workplace campaigns on equal pay.
Congress calls on the TUC Women’s Committee to lobby the government to:
a. introduce a plan to abolish the gender pay gap
b. introduce strong enforcement penalties against employers who do not meet this or are not seen to be making inroads towards closing the gender pay gap
c. conduct a review and consultation of the current Flexible Working Regulations to include a right to have, as opposed to a right to request, flexible working
d. apply the new duty to prevent sexual harassment provisions as soon as possible
e. tackle job segregation and ensure part-time work is available in all job roles
f. implement legal rights to take cases on dual race and sex discrimination
g. implement statutory rights for union equality reps
h. restore employment rights from day one and tackle zero-hours contracts
i. restore the questionnaire procedure and mandatory equal pay audits.
TUC Women’s Conference 2020