Labour has pledged to eradicate the gender pay gap – currently at 13.1% – by 2030. Here’s what the other parties have planned.
Today, 14 November, is Equal Pay Day: the day from which women in the UK are effectively working for free until the end of the year.
According to the Office of National Statistics, the gender pay gap for full time workers in the UK is currently sitting at 13.1%. In other words, it is alive and well.
Most of us are well aware of this fact, with new research published today finding that 60% of women in the UK either believe they are being paid less than men for doing the same job, or they don’t know what their male colleagues are earning.
Worse still, it is estimated that, at this rate, the gender pay gap will exist until around the year 2080.
However, there could be good news coming. With the issue emerging as a political football ahead of the 12 December election, parties are promising action which could see equal pay within the next decade.
The Labour Party
Today, the Labour Party vowed that it would close the gender pay gap by 2030 if it wins the election – 60 years sooner than it would take under a Conservative government, the party said.
The party said it would commit to a “real living wage” of £10 an hour, and created a Worker’s Protection Agency with HMRC with powers to fine organisations that fail to report gender pay.
The new agency would also require firms with more than 250 employees to obtain government certification by meeting gender equality criteria on recruitment, career progression, pay and work-life balance. By the end of 2020, this threshold would lower to workplaces with 50 employees.
Labour also said it would extend maternity pay from nine months to 12 months, introduce free childcare for two to four-year-olds and strengthen protections against unfair dismissal and redundancies, with extra rights for pregnant women.
“It’s not good enough that under the current government’s plans, it will take another 60 years to close the gender pay gap,” Dawn Butler, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary, said. “Labour’s real living wage, robust gender pay auditing – including fining organisations that fail to take action, will help us deliver real change and meet this ambitious target.”
The Conservative government responded to Labour’s pledge, warning the party was “over-promising something they cannot deliver”. Liz Truss, Women and Equalities Minister, said: “Jeremy Corbyn will subject the British people to the chaos of two more referendums, meaning he won’t be able to focus on priorities like opportunities for women.”
Last April, the government brought in new legislation that forced companies with over 250 employees to report gender pay gaps within their businesses. Shockingly, eight in 10 UK firms were found to pay men more, on average, than women.
While the legislation was a welcome move in the right direction, there is still a lot more work to do.
The Liberal Democrats
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have thrown their hat in the ring, pledging to expand measures to tackle the gender pay gap by obliging bigger companies to publish data on employment levels by gender. The party has also promised to push for a law to end the “pink tax”: where companies charge higher prices for fundamentally identical products, such as razors or deodorants, simply because they are marketed at women.
The party’s equalities spokesperson Christine Jardine called out the “double whammy” of the pink tax and the gender pay gap that fell on women as “totally unacceptable” in the 21st century, condemning the Conservatives’ failure to take necessary action to help ensure gender equality.
The Green Party
According to their website, the Green Party would insist that all large and medium-size companies “carry out equal pay audits and redress any inequalities”, and it would “change the law so that joint suits for unequal pay cases are easier to bring”.
Plus, the party would introduce shared maternity and paternity leave for the first month after birth or adoption and then provide for 22 months of leave, which would be paid at 90% of salary “up to a reasonable level”.
The Brexit Party
At the time of writing, the Brexit Party had nothing on the gender pay gap in their manifesto.
Despite being used as an excuse for political mudslinging and one-upmanship, the fact that this issue is receiving some much-needed and long-overdue attention can only be a good thing.
Who knows, maybe on this day next year, we will be getting paid for our work.