Government must act to ensure coronavirus doesn’t “turn the clock back” on equal pay

Labour today warns that coronavirus risks “turning the clock back” on pay equality, as the party calls on government to strengthen equal pay laws on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

Labour Leader Keir Starmer MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Marsha De Cordova MP have backed the Fawcett Society’s ‘Right to Know’ campaign that would give women the right to know what a male colleague doing the same work is paid. They say it is necessary to bring the Act up to date for workplaces in 2020.

Ms de Cordova also says the government’s strategy for recovering from coronavirus must take into account the particular impact the crisis is having on women – or risk further entrenching the problem.

The demand comes after an investigation by the Institute for Fiscal studies into the impact of Covid-19 on working families found mothers are almost 50% more likely to have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic and research from the national poverty charity Turn2Us, that has found that women’s incomes are falling more steeply than men’s during the crisis.

In government, Labour closed the pay gap by 7.7 per cent. But in recent years progress has stalled, with just a 2.4 per cent decrease in pay inequality since 2011. Public spending decisions in this time have disproportionately hit women harder than men because of their over-representation in lower-paid jobs and because they are more likely to access child-related working-age benefits. In December, the UK slipped down the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality ranking, from 15th to 21st – one place below Albania.

Keir Starmer, Leader of the Labour Party, said:

“The Equal Pay Act was a historic achievement that showed the impact Labour can make in power.

“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.”

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Marsha de Cordova MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, 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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