International Women’s Day: What will it take to close the gender pay gap?

Published date
08 Mar 2018
It’s International Women’s Day today. It’s a day to celebrate the many achievements of women as well as highlight the inequalities women continue to face in the workplace and society.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news but today is also Women’s Pay Day, the day when the average woman starts getting paid compared to the average man. The TUC’s shocking findings show that women effectively work for free for 67 days of the year (more than two months of the year) compared to the average man.

The current gender pay gap for all full time and part – time men and women is 18.4 per cent. Since 2011 the full time pay gap has fallen by 0.2 per cent per year. The gender pay gap is closing at such a slow pace that the TUC calculated that it would take around 40 years to reach pay parity between men and women.

Jobs where women dominate men still earn more

Women face pay disparity even in sectors where women are over represented:

  • In education, women do not start getting paid until 7 April due to the gender pay gap of 26.5 per cent.
  • In health and social work the average woman has to wait until mid-March for Women’s Pay Day.
  • Women working in the financial sector have to wait the longest 130 days more than a third of the year. It’s not until the 10 May that women in the finance and insurance sector start to get paid.

Why is there a gender pay gap?

The TUC has consistently stated that there are a number of factors that have resulted in the gender pay gap existing. A major cause is the lack of good quality decently paid part time work. Over 40 per cent of women compared to 12 per cent of men work in part time jobs.

Also, part time workers are more likely to be in lower skilled and paid jobs in the private sector which are caring, clerical, cashiering, catering and cleaning jobs. These jobs are not as well paid as engineering and science. In most cases women take on the caring responsibilities and are more likely to reduce their hours to fit around childcare responsibilities.

There is also a lack of affordable childcare. TUC research found that in England the average wages of those with a one-year-old child rose by 12% in cash terms – although pay is still falling in real terms – between 2008 and 2016. However, over the same period, childcare costs shot up by 48%. This means women are more likely to give up work or take long periods out of work to care for their children.

What we want government to do?

We want the government to get tough on gender pay gap reporting by increasing resources for enforcement, introducing immediate fines for non-compliance and requiring employers to publish action plans about how they are going to close their gap alongside their figures. Smaller employers should also be required to report.

We must end the motherhood pay penalty by tackling pregnancy discrimination and giving dads better opportunities to share parental leave. The government should work with employers to create more well-paid part-time jobs.

We must improve pay for “women’s work” through investing in key sectors like social and nursery care where many important jobs are done by women and end discriminatory pay through mandatory equal pay audits.

Almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act and there is still unlawful discrimination on pay. UNISON’s victory that overturned employment tribunal fees was an important step in making sure women can get access to justice by taking equal pay claims. And above all we need strong trade union organisation and collective bargaining for equal pay.