Equal Pay at 50

Today on the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Equal Pay Act, we remember the struggle and strength of the women who have fought over the last 150 years to be paid equally for their work.

So many of the infamous equal pay wins have been won with the work of women trade unionists. Samira Ahmed, Carrie Gracie and many more BBC women with the NUJ, Glasgow City Council women with Unison and the Ford Dagenham women who pushed the Labour Party into legislating for Equal Pay in 1970 with the support of the National Union of Vehicle Builders.

We know that collective bargaining leads to more equal workplaces. And the recent requirement for companies to publish gender pay gaps has given women the knowledge and power to have conversations with employers that create the foundation to challenge unequal pay.

But the anniversary of such a momentous event reminds us of how much there is still left to do.

COVID-19 has exposed on a glaring scale the inequality in work. Women are more likely to be furloughed, more likely to give up their jobs during this crisis and more likely to be made redundant. The requirement for gender pay gap reporting was one of the first things to be cancelled. The gender pay gap barely moves, and for other groups that define into more than one equality group the impact is stark. While the national gender pay gap sits at 17.2%, the pay gap for disabled women is at 25.9%.

This profound unfairness will only change if our members and reps challenge employers to be completely transparent about how they pay men and women.

We need all employers to report their pay gaps, not just those who are forced to do so. We need employers to make action plans to show they are addressing pay gaps, as well as providing the ability for employees to hold employers to account. Job adverts must be advertised as flexible and with the pay grade shown clearly. Pay secrecy clauses must be banned. Employers must offer better paid parental leave for both parents so we can eliminate the motherhood pay penalty.

So today we are starting a campaign to tackle low and unequal pay, starting with a guide for members on what equal pay and pay gaps all mean. We’ll be releasing new resources and tools over the coming weeks and providing support to anyone who needs help getting fair pay. We’ll take an intersectional approach, which means we’re making this campaign a broad conversation on race, gender and disability.

Equality can’t wait any longer. 50 years is long enough.

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.

Lauren Crowley is head of equalities at Community union.

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