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About the P&I Team Briefings Home | Responses | PFI Index | Policy Guide
Equal Pay Awareness Briefing No 24
 

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INTRODUCTION:

The Equal Pay Act, passed in 1970, gave women the legal right to be paid the same as men. The impact of this legislation was to do away with "women's rates" and "men's rates" for the same job. Unfortunately, it has not eradicated the pay gap between the sexes.

Since the introduction of the Act, the gap between average hourly earnings for men and women working full-time has narrowed from 31% to 18%, but the gap between hourly earnings of women working part-time and men working full-time has barely changed at all and is still 39%. For women in some minority ethnic groups, their average hourly earnings are lower still than white women, and disabled women have lower earnings than women who are not disabled.

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THREE MAIN CAUSES OF UNEQUAL PAY:

Two years ago, an independent Equal Pay Taskforce was set up comprising employers from business and the public sector, trade unions, academics and equal opportunities specialists. They identified three main causes of unequal pay:

  • Sex discrimination in pay systems
  • Women concentrated in low paid jobs such as shop assistants, teachers, secretaries and nurses
  • Women still taking primary responsibility for childcare, so enter into part-time jobs.

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WHY HASN'T THE PAY GAP GONE AWAY:

The Task Force identified five barriers:-

  • Most people don't realise a pay gap exists, or understand its causes
  • Equal Pay legislation is ineffective cases take too long to come to tribunal, require too many hearings, and are very expensive
  • Those employers and trade unions who realise there is a problem , do not know how to tackle it
  • Secrecy about pay keeps the problem hidden, with the onus on individuals to prove discrimination rather than employers to demonstrate equal treatment
  • Social policies make the situation worse, re-enforcing women's economic dependency on men, who are still assumed to be the breadwinners

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CONSEQUENCES OF THE PAY GAP:

The consequences of the pay gap are bad for business and the economy.

  • Many women working part-time are unable to fulfil their potential. It is a waste of human resources which the economy can ill-afford
  • Businesses cannot expect to attract and retain the best people if they don't pay women fairly
  • Employers who continue to discriminate risk lengthy and expensive tribunal cases
  • Individual women and their children are trapped in poverty, unable to build up a pension, and increasingly dependent on state benefits
  • The government loses revenue in tax and National Insurance contributions.

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SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE'S INITIATIVE ON EQUAL PAY:

Last year, the Scottish Executive launched the Close the Gap campaign, in partnership with the STUC, employer's organisations, employment rights agencies and others to highlight the issue of equal pay in Scotland. Although the Executive has no legislative powers to force employers to close the gap (a power reserved to Westminster), they have highlighted it as a major feature of their Social Justice and Inclusion programme. At national level, the government has announced a series of actions to cut the gender pay gap. These include:

  • New legal rights for women to get information from employers about what they are paying their staff
  • Requiring companies with large workforces to produce annual reports on staff terms and conditions
  • Encouraging public and private sector organisations to conduct employment and pay reviews covering all aspects of women's employment
  • Recognising and spreading best practice

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UNISON'S ROLE:

UNISON has a major role in Equal Pay which has been a prominent feature in our Equalities agenda for action for a long time

In Scotland we intend to undertake over the next year the following:

  • Raise the profile of Equal Pay and promote Equal Pay Audits
  • Provide an initial resource pack for Equal Pay audits
  • Provide training for appointed Equal pay representatives
  • Identify and support four branches to undertake pay audits
  • At the conclusion of that exercise, prepare an Equal Pay Toolkit for branches
  • Make Equal Pay a strategic bargaining issue

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WHAT BRANCHES CAN DO:

Branches have an important role to play in this campaign. In the first instance we are looking for four branches, preferably from different service groups, who would be prepared to volunteer to pilot the campaign. By testing and sharing

information, we can start to develop an Equal Pay toolkit for other branches to use. We will also be asking those branches not involved in the Pilot Project to appoint an Equal Pay contact, in order to keep them informed of developments and to continue the awareness-raising process.

January 2002

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FURTHER INFORMATION:

Equal Opportunities Commission
www.eoc.org.uk
0141 248 5833

Scottish Executive Equality Unit
www.scotland.gov.uk
0131 244 0123

Scottish Low Pay Unit
unit@scotlpu.org.uk
0141 221 4491

Scottish Trades Union Congress
www.stuc.org.uk
0141 337 8100

Fair Play Scotland
0141 248 5833

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