Labour urges action to stop Covid-19 “turning the clock back” on equal pay

Labour has urged the government to take action to stop coronavirus from “turning the clock back” on equal pay in the UK as research suggests women’s incomes are worst-affected during the crisis.

On the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, leader Keir Starmer and equalities spokesperson Marsha de Cordova have supported the Fawcett Society’s ‘Right to Know’ campaign.

This initiative seeks to bring the Act up to date, and would end pay secrecy and boost transparency by giving women the right to know what a male colleague doing the same work is paid.

Citing data that showed only 24% reporting that salaries are discussed openly in their workplace, the Fawcett Society argues that the move would enable women to resolve equal pay issues without having to go to court.

“The Equal Pay Act was a historic achievement that showed the impact Labour can make in power,” Starmer commented. “But half a century later, progress is stalling. Coronavirus threatens to set us back years in the fight for pay equality.

“We must come out of this pandemic with the commitment to build a better future. That means strengthening the Equal Pay Act and monitoring how this crisis is impacting on women.”

Labour is making the case for strengthened equal pay laws particularly amid the coronavirus crisis as de Cordova says the recovery should take into account the specific impact it is having on women.

An investigation by the Institute for Fiscal studies found that mothers are almost 50% more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic, while poverty charity Turn2Us said women’s incomes are falling more steeply than men’s.

Progress on the UK’s gender pay gap has stalled in recent years, with the gap closing by 7.7% under Labour but only by 2.4% since 2011 under successive Conservative-led governments.

The UK also fell several places in the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality ranking in December, from 15th to 21st – now below Albania, Canada, Costa Rica, Latvia, Switzerland, South Africa and Spain.

Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary de Cordova said: “Today marks 50 years since Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act became law. It was inspired by the demand of women of the Ford factories in Dagenham and Liverpool for equal pay for equal work. Yet, even now, women are still getting a rough deal.

“Labour has long warned that the UK is slipping behind on pay equality. But the coronavirus crisis now looks set to further exploit those weaknesses by turning the clock back on pay equality.

“As we emerge from this crisis, it’s clear government needs to act in women’s interests. Government must ensure any coronavirus recovery plan comes with a full impact assessment that ensures it doesn’t exacerbate the gender pay gap.

“And it’s why we are calling on them to give women the right to know if they are being paid less than the man sat opposite them doing the same job.”

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