Equal Pay Day

Today’s blog comes from Cllr Craig Cheney, Deputy Mayor with responsibility for Finance, Governance and Performance.

“There can be no doubt that this afternoon we are witnessing another historic advance in the struggle against discrimination in our society, this time against discrimination on grounds of sex.”

Barbara Castle, introducing the Second Reading of the Equal Pay Bill in Parliament, 9 February 1970

Today marks the first International Equal Pay Day, recognising the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value. This is a longstanding mantra within the Labour movement, enshrined in law through landmark legislation such as the Equal Pay Act of 1970, and the Equality Act of 2010.

Yet we know that without concerted effort from employers, local and national government, we risk losing ground in the progress towards gender and racial equality, and in recognising the equal value of work done by disabled people.

Illustration by Verónica Grech

The government announced in March that as a result of Covid-19 there will be no expectation for employers to report their gender pay gaps for the 2019/2020 financial year. The publication of pay gaps in and of themselves doesn’t necessarily tell us whether equal pay is being delivered. There are many structural issues which can produce pay gaps on the basis of gender, ethnicity and disability such as a predomination of men in senior roles, without necessarily entailing that people are being paid differently for the same work. However, publication of this data is an important way to measure equality within organisations and in our society more broadly.

In addition to this data gap, we know that Covid-19 has already had an impact on gender equality. Mothers are 23% more likely to have lost their jobs than fathers, more likely to work in lower paid and less secure jobs than men, and more likely to pick up additional burdens of childcare as children were kept away from school and nursery over lockdown. Evidence suggests that BAME women face particularly acute pay gaps, with research from the Office of National Statistics indicating, for instance, that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women experience an aggregate gender pay gap of 26.2%.

It is incumbent on all of us to use data-driven approaches to guarantee equal pay across our economy. Bristol City Council has not only published our average gender pay gap, but also pay gaps for ethnicity and disability within our organisation. While we are pleased to see these gaps narrowing, we know there is more to do to ensure equality of pay and opportunity within the council. We have brought in initiatives like Stepping Up, the Bristol WORKS programme and the City Leadership Programme to ensure that everyone in Bristol is able to take advantage of opportunities across the public and private sector, regardless of their gender, race or whether they are disabled.

We are determined that Covid-19 doesn’t impede our progress towards delivering equal pay in Bristol. That is why in our One City Statement of Economic Renewal, we have made explicit commitments to inclusive economic growth and to deliver the UN Sustainable Development Goals through our city’s recovery from coronavirus (this includes the goals of Gender Equality and reducing inequality within and between countries). We also reaffirm our commitment to our One City Plan goal to eliminate all ‘pay gaps’ in our city, across all private and public sector organisations, by 2045.

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