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MILLIONS of women will retire without seeing equal pay as a result of the Tories’ failure to close the gender pay gap, Labour said ahead of Equal Pay Day today.
Today is the day when women effectively stop getting paid for the rest of the year compared with men.
Around 8.5 million women will go their whole careers without ever receiving equal pay unless the government takes urgent action, Labour said.
Progress to close the pay gap has slowed significantly under the Conservatives and, at the current pace, it will not be closed until 2052, according to the party’s analysis.
It means that women currently in their mid-30s will never know equal pay in their working lives.
The gender pay gap has narrowed slightly to 14.6 per cent, but the suspension of mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting in March has potentially caused inaccuracies with this year’s data.
The government is yet to confirm when reporting will be reintroduced.
Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova criticised the “indifference” of ministers to closing the gap, and demanded that the government “act now to prevent this crisis from further cementing women’s economic inequality.”
She called for the modernisation of equal-pay legislation so that women have the right to know what their male colleagues doing the same work are paid, and for immediate confirmation that gender pay reporting will be mandatory for companies again in April 2021.
Ms de Cordova also called for the publication of a review of the economic impact of Covid-19 on women in the government’s forthcoming spending review.
Women are more likely to work in sectors shut down by the coronavirus, more likely to be furloughed across almost every age group, and have taken on increased caring responsibilities while working from home, data gathered during the pandemic shows.
Fawcett Society chief executive Sam Smethers described progress on closing the gap as “dismally slow” and said that women’s skills and potential are going to “waste.”
She said: “Too many women are trapped in low-paid, part-time work or locked out of non-traditional sectors, while others experience pay or pregnancy discrimination.”
Ms Smethers also highlighted the unequal sharing of unpaid care work between men and women, calling for fathers to have longer and better-paid paternity leave as well as flexible jobs “unless there is a business reason for them not to.”
The Fawcett Society said that Britain was at a “coronavirus crossroads” as large numbers of working women say they are worried about their job or prospects due to the pandemic.
The charity’s research on the impact of Covid-19 to mark Equal Pay Day found that some changes caused by the pandemic, such as fathers spending more time at home caring for their children, could accelerate gender equality.
But the survey also showed that a third of working mothers have lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said that the situation for women in general was a “disgrace,” especially during the pandemic, and that research showed that the gap for disabled women was even worse as they are paid £6,700 a year less than non-disabled men.
Ms O’Grady said: “Many working women have had no choice but to sacrifice hours and pay — and even their jobs — to look after their kids during the pandemic.
“The government must invest in the childcare sector so that women can go to work. Or we risk turning the clock back on decades of progress on equality in the labour market.
“And bosses must ensure that women are not first in line for redundancies. Women must not bear the brunt of this recession as they have done in the past.”
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