On 29th May, the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Equal Pay Act, members of Community’s equalities team attended a virtual conference hosted by The Equality Trust.
Following the conference, we wanted to reflect on some of the highlights of the discussion– which ranged from the causes of unequal and unfair pay to examples of what is being done and what can be done to help address this problem.
We heard and discussed how key workers have been systematically undervalued, and as these sectors are often predominantly staffed by women, this has contributed to the country’s gender pay gap. We know that this disproportionately affects BAME women, who are over-represented in caring roles. It is so important that discussion of equal pay remains intersectional, and that we amplify the voices of all workers. A key message here is that we need to consider what kinds of work we truly value – something which has become apparent to many of us during the COVID-19 crisis.
It was also clear from the examples shared that equal pay is far from being achieved across the country. Companies often fail to recognise that equal pay legislation applies to work of equal value as well as those doing the same roles. We heard about the cases of (predominantly female) supermarket workers who are fighting for equal pay with their (predominantly male) colleagues who work in warehouses. It may have been 50 years, but equal pay for equal work is still not a reality.
A topic which many of our members will be interested in is the importance of family friendly policies in moving towards equal and fair pay. There is much that can be done, from flexible work to fit around childcare, granting promotions to those on family leave and supporting those who return to the workforce after taking care of a family. We reflected on how organisations must take better account of the different shapes of women’s careers, and support fathers and second parents to be able to take time to care for their children, to prevent the burden of care falling predominantly on women.
The final theme that really stood out was the importance of working together in partnership. As trade unionists we already know that we are stronger when we stand together. We need to move the burden from individuals to prove that they are being treated unfairly and place the onus on organisations to right wrongs for whole groups of workers at once. We need to come together across the trade union movement, working with charities, campaigners, academics, and workplaces to make fair and equal pay a reality.
Thank you to The Equality Trust for organising such a great conference and helping to connect us with so many organisations all working hard towards the same goal.
Community believes passionately in equal pay and have launched a new campaign to tackle unequal and unfair pay. Check out our latest blog by Lauren Crowley, head of equalities, and our new resource on understanding equal pay.
If you want to get more involved in Community’s equalities work, you can join our Facebook group, or register your interest in becoming an equalities rep.