Marsha de Cordova has criticised the Tories for their “indifference” to gender pay inequality – and called for the government to “prevent this crisis from further cementing women’s economic inequality”.
Marking Equal Pay Day on November 20th, the date that women effectively stop earning when their income is compared against men, de Cordova highlighted that 8.5 million women are forecast to retire before equal pay is achieved.
Labour has pointed out that progress towards closing the gender pay gap, which currently stands at 14.6% for UK workers, has slowed significantly over the past ten years under successive Conservative governments.
The Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary said: “Government has failed to tackle the gender pay gap and has ignored the impact this crisis has had on women. The Conservatives’ indifference risks the clock being turned back on women’s equality.
“We need urgent action to modernise equal pay legislation and restart pay gap reporting. The government must act now to prevent this crisis from further cementing women’s economic inequality.”
In the years between 2002 and 2010, the gender pay gap narrowed by over 7% but in the decade since the Tory/Lib Dem coalition first took office that progress has stalled and pay inequality has fallen by just 2.4%.
Pay equality is not expected to be achieved until 2052 at the current pace of change, according to analysis by Labour, meaning that women in their mid-30s will never know equal pay in their working lives. The party has called for:
- “Modernising equal pay legislation so that women have the right to know what their male colleague doing the same work is paid;
- “Immediately confirming that gender pay reporting for companies will be mandatory again in April 2021; and
- “Publishing a review of the economic impact of covid on women and tackling structural inequalities as a priority in the forthcoming spending review.”
The Government Equalities Office announced in March that it would not be taking action against employers who fail to submit their pay gap data due to the pandemic, effectively suspending the requirement for the year.
Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary slammed the decision at the time as “negligent”, pointing out that coronavirus “thrives on inequality” and that such inequalities “amplify the impact of the pandemic”.
De Cordova said: “The pandemic has shown that women are more likely than men to take over caring duties, more likely to be made redundant and make up most of the workforce within the health and social care sector.”
Government figures showed that more women are on furlough than men across all age groups and the TUC has highlighted that the impact of Covid has been particularly acute for BAME women, who are likely to be in lower paid, insecure work.
Labour MP Stella Creasy put forward proposals last month to require wider reporting from organisations in relation pay inequality, lowering the threshold for those required to publish gender pay gap data from 250 employees to 100.
The legislation passed its first reading in the Commons unopposed, but as a ten-minute rule bill is unlikely to make further progress as this type of bill is not normally given priority by the government in the parliamentary calendar.