As a man, securing equal pay has been a mission of mine since becoming an MP in 1997. It is shocking to me that pay inequality – being paid less as a woman for doing work which is of equal value and demands equal skill – is still a factor for women across the UK. In the East-Midlands the gender pay gap for full time work is 12%, higher than the UK average of 9.4%.
I feel a major factor is due to our cultural attitude which must change. New research by Childwise published today has revealed that the gender pay gap begins early in childhood and at home with boys receiving 20% more pocket money than girls. Between the ages of 11 and 16 the gap grows to 30%, with boys receiving an average weekly income of £17.80 and girls of the same age lagging behind with £12.50. Clearly as a society we are giving our sons and daughters different lessons about money and financial management. This is not the case for all parents, but the economic inequality the girls surveyed faced, is something that will continue throughout their lives. We need to ask the fundamental question of who and what we value and ask why it is that we don’t value women and the work they do equally– paid or unpaid. Equal value goes to the heart of the fight for pay equality, because the reality is that if it is a sector dominated by women the pay will be lower.
There are many other reasons why the pay gap exists; ingrained discrimination, the dominance of men in the best paid positions, unequal caring responsibilities and so on have created a gender pay gap that currently stands at 18.1 per cent for all employees (including part time workers).
There needs to be more practical action to tackle this inequality head on, which Labour spearheaded with the Equality Act in 2010. Under section 78 of Labour’s Equality Act 2010 legislation was passed to introduce mandatory pay audits, under which companies that employ more than 250 people have to publish details of their male and female staff’s pay.
Today a Delegated Legislation Committee has finally voted and passed the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations. The first such publications will be on 5 April 2018. It has taken nearly seven years, for the Tories to bring into force a simple piece of legislation that Labour passed 7 years ago.
The government have chosen to omit any sanctions or consequences if a company fails to comply. This lack of compliance sanctions is disappointing to me and makes me question how effective the legislation in closing the gender pay gap will be. There also needs to be a clear strategy to address chronic low paid, low progression sectors such as retail, care and hospitality where many women work.
Finally, I also challenge the Minister to question why women are being forced to pay for the failures of Tory Austerity. As of the last Autumn Statement, according to the House of Commons Library, 86% of net savings to the treasury through tax and benefit changes since 2010 have come from women. Ahead of the spring statement the government should be outlining how they plan to tackle economic inequality for women. So whilst I welcome any legislation from this government that moves towards ending gender economic inequality, it took too long and needs to go further. Lastly it is important that men speak out on this issue. As this is a matter for all of us.