Smash the Gender Pay Gap

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2019 National Delegate Conference
18 February 2019
Carried as Amended

Nearly 50 years since the Ford machinists went on strike at Dagenham, the UK still has one of the worst gender pay gaps in Europe. Women effectively work for free for two months a year. As the largest UK women’s union, UNISON is uniquely placed to be the voice of women in public services on this issue.

Conference notes that Gender Pay Reporting came into force in April 2018 for UK organisations with 250 employees or more and although it is a relatively blunt tool it should be recognised as a new opportunity to engage with employers on a range of issues that we know affect the pay gap. Conference believes that smashing the gender pay gap must be at the heart of all collective bargaining if progress is to be made.

UNISON has over a million women members who make up nearly 80% of our union. It couldn’t be more important for UNISON that we are in the forefront of highlighting the impact of the gender pay gap and to call on employers and governments to take urgent action to smash this gap.

Whilst the formal requirement to report on pay is a welcome step that UNISON long campaigned for, Conference is of the view that the data and actions required are far too limited in scope.

Conference believes that UNISON should continue to call on the Westminster government to improve the current requirements. We must seek to improve on, and broaden out the data gathered. The data is only meaningful as a springboard for action if a requirement is placed on employers to break down the pay gaps for separate pay systems. To take two public sector examples, NHS data should be published separately for staff on Agenda for Change terms as opposed to the doctors’ and dentists’ pay scales. Equally, police forces should show the gap for police officers separately to police staff.

Conference also believes that pay gaps would benefit from publication for discrete job roles even when these share a common pay system. For example, in higher education, it is standard practice to analyse the gender pay gap for academics, manual staff, professional and support staff and technical staff separately as well as publishing the institutional pay gap. UNISON believes this is an example of good practice that should be incorporated into any proposed pay gap reporting requirements.

Conference considers that the current 250 employee reporting threshold should be lowered to 50 to enable better comparisons across the board. Contrary to initial government concerns, we do not believe this would be too onerous. In Scotland, the expectation is that organisations with more than 20 employees to report detailed data on gender pay. In Wales, the public sector equality duties involve detailed equality indicators for organisations with more than 150 employees.

UNISON should also campaign for more substantial commitment to enforcement and compliance. This is distinctly lacking in the current procedures and the only deterrent or punishment for non compliance appears to be a vague sense of shame.

Conference praises our local representatives who are working hard to promote and ensure equality proof pay spines in all workplaces. However, we also know that unequal pay is not the only factor affecting the gap.

Other issues that impact on women’s ability to compete and succeed on a level playing field to men include:

1)Poor recruitment practices – including the language used at advert and interview;

2)Unconscious bias;

3)Conscious bias;

4)Confidence / aspiration gap between men and women;

5)Caring responsibilities;

6)Part time pay/promotion penalty.

Conference believes that all of these are areas where UNISON is well placed to campaign and negotiate for improved policies and practices, both locally and nationally and through lobbying governments to support and champion change.

Conference is aware that pay gaps are also recorded for other protected characteristics and is dismayed at the disability, black women and ethnicity pay gaps in the UK and notes both the recent Westminster government consultation on ethnicity pay reporting and the recent TUC report on the disability pay gap.

Conference calls on the National Executive Council to:

a)Develop a broad campaign to combat and smash the gender pay gap in which UNISON will be a significant voice and champion for smashing the gap;

b)Bring together and review current research on the persistent and underlying reasons that contribute to the pay gap to inform branch guidance;

c)Work with service groups and self organised groups to produce negotiating guidelines to support Branches to negotiate local action plans to close the gender pay gap;

d)Work with relevant partners to share best practice and co-ordinate campaign activity;

e)Guard against any attempt to use outsourcing as a method of narrowing the gender pay gap and lend practical support to branches to support them to do the same;

f)Lobby the Westminster government, along with devolved governments, to champion measures that support employers to work towards closing the gap, to improve and extend the reporting mechanisms and to bring in measures that support women better in the workplace;

g)Campaign for tougher sanctions for non-compliance and non-reporting;

h)Work through Labour Link, with the Labour Party, to help inform and shape their agenda on this issue for the next general election;

i)Persuade Northern Ireland politicians to implement pay gap reporting quickly, once a government is re-established.