Equal Pay

11 August 2014

The Independent has reported that the pay gap between the sexes began to widen again in 2013, reversing years of progress. The figures, based on an analysis by the House of Commons Library, show that in 1997 the pay gap between men and women was 27.5 per cent. Over the intervening years it has narrowed steadily – but in 2013 it rose for the first time, from 19.6 per cent to 19.7 per cent. Therefore women are earning only 80p for every £1 earned by men. At the current rate of progress, Labour says, it would take women more than 60 years to achieve financial equality with men – more than a century since the promise of equal pay was first made in Labour’s Equal Pay Act of 1970.

Last month, the Liberal Democrats announced that they would be including a commitment in their manifesto to require all businesses with more than 250 employees to measure and publish information on their gender pay gaps, in an attempt to shame large firms into action. The policy was included in the Equality Act 2010, which was passed by the Labour government just before the last general election, but the section referring to it was later shelved by the Coalition. Labour is expected to resurrect the policy in its manifesto for 2015.

The Conservative Party’s approach has been to equal out the opportunities for men and women to take on childcare responsibilities.  By opening up the right to request flexible working, increasing unpaid parental leave and allowing shared parental leave, the hope is to help more women stay in the workplace and also remove the assumption by employers that women in their 20s and 30s will be absent for large spells with childcare responsibilities.