Blog: a long way to go on equal pay

On the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea looks at the fight we still face

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Today, 29 May, is an opportunity to celebrate 50 years since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act.

UNISON has led the way in using the legislation to achieve equal pay for significant numbers of low-paid women members – school staff, nursery workers, care workers, caterers and cleaners – who are doing the same work as men.

However, figures published earlier this week show that there are 29,000 equal pay claims a year – in spite of the Equal Pay Act.

We’ve made a lot of progress, but there is still a lot to do to end long-term inequality in pay for women.

Factors that underlie pay inequality have become stronger during the coronavirus crisis. Women and the work they do are consistently undervalued – and this is never more the case than for women working in the social care sector.

Eight out of 10 social care workers are women. Many are also Black or migrant workers. They are undervalued and low-paid, with many on insecure contracts, but they are paying the highest price in the fight against the deadly virus.

A report from the influential Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that more women are losing their jobs, and taking on more domestic responsibilities, as a consequence of COVID-19. The pay gap in working families has increased by 10%.

UNISON has long argued that society’s expectation that women are the prime carers stands in the way of achieving pay equity.

Pay inequity cuts across all aspects of women’s lives. Addressing low pay and pay inequality remain central bargaining priorities as restrictions imposed to fight COVID-19 begin to ease.