Equal Pay Day must spur us into action

kez new sunnyKezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour Leader, says the UK in 2015 shouldn’t see half of its workforce facing lower wages because of their gender.


Today is a key economic moment in the UK calendar. Unfortunately it didn’t merit a mention as the Prime Minister addressed the CBI conference. Today is the point at which British women begin effectively working for free, from now until the New Year, because of the wage gap.

Equal Pay Day fell on Monday November 9 this year. It’s two days later than it was in 2013, but it remains in November as it has for the last decade. At a time when politics seems alive with possibilities, and change appears to happen at a breakneck speed, the glacial pace of pay equality for women is infuriating.

The UK in 2015 shouldn’t see half of its workforce facing lower wages because of their gender. What is going on?

At Scottish Labour Conference in Perth last week we saw a report from our Low Pay Commission, which included contributions from the third sector and women’s organisations.

It found that low pay disproportionately hinders women. It reported that women are more likely to be locked into low-paid and undervalued work. It found that women are more likely to experience poverty in Scotland. Caring responsibilities, coupled with the inflexibility of paid work, means women have a weak attachment to the labour market.

We see in Scotland and across the UK that the lowest paid industries such as care, retail and hospitality have majority of women employees.

Scottish Labour has a raft of policies to tackle low pay. We would guarantee the Living Wage on public contracts, and I pledged in my leader’s speech in Perth that a Scottish Labour government would deliver the Living Wage for carers. We would ban exploitative zero hours contracts, and we would restore in full the money lost from any changes to tax credits.

But in addition tackling low pay, we have to tear down the barriers to high quality, high skilled jobs for women, to ensure our economy is based on equal access to the jobs of the future regardless of gender.

Experts have said that if Scotland invests in engineers we could reap a £1.7 billion windfall for our economy. We need nearly 150,000 new engineers over the next decade to hit that target.

That’s why it’s so important we encourage more women into science and engineering. Today only 3% of civil engineers in Scotland are women, and just 10% are in senior management jobs in science and technology. Scotland can do better than that, and indeed we must do better than that if we want Equal Pay Day to move out of November.

We also need to consider how we deal with the motherhood penalty, where women lose positions or promotions for going on maternity leave. We need to develop childcare policies that fit around a family’s life, not on an election leaflet. And we need to understand that having women in positions of influence is not the same as having feminists in positions of power.

Forty years on from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, the glass ceiling may have a few chips in it but it’s far from shattered. It’s time Scotland’s governments got cracking and make Equal Pay Day December 31st every year.

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12 thoughts on “Equal Pay Day must spur us into action

  1. So..can we assume that this will mean that Labour-controlled or led local authorities will be instructed to settle equal pay claims from their female employees with no further delay, rather than dragging their feet as they have been doing for years?

  2. Kezia interesting article and you have done yourself a lot of good by being objective and concentrating on the subject and not falling back to the usual Scottish Labour section default position of SNP bad bad bad. Well done Kezia the penny has finally dropped.

  3. Hi Kezia,
    this is something you really need to push hard.It isn’t good enough that women should be under paid.Now that the minimum wage is getting devolved you can really take the SNP to task.

    1. How can anyone in the Labour party take the “SNP to task” on equality when Labour MP’s sat on their hands (again) to prevent the devolution of equality legislation to Holyrood.

      1. Possibly because the moving of a power around does not equate to supporting the use of a power. “We want to devolve it therefore we’re better” is, on brief examination, an empty argument. Powers should sit where they can best be used.

        1. Not really answering my question Duncan, how can labour “take the SNP to task on equality” when it was the Labour party who denied them the powers over equality legislation?

          But to address your point, I happen to believe that any power that allows the state to say how our people are treated should be devolved to the Scottish government who I trust far more than those in charge in Westminster.

          1. You missed my point then. Labour argued for core equality legislation to be a power we share across the UK, through our democratic UK-wide structures. It argued this from a very reasonable position of rights being better defined universally than devolved and divided. But equality is more than rights – it is fair pay, it is fair treatment by public services, it is fair access to education. All of these are already the remit of the Scottish Parliament, and the current Scottish Government can therefore be taken to task where they have failed (and congratulated where they have succeeded).

            In your second para you argue for where powers should sit based on who is currently the democratically elected government. That is a dangerously short-sighted approach.

  4. I have to ask, why then would Labour MP’s block the transferring of powers over equality to Holyrood?

  5. Why would Scottish Labour not want control of Abortion law passed to the Scottish Parliament?

    1. I think Kezia has been very clear on the abortion issue.If the Scottish Parliament is given powers in this area it might lead to a reopening of debate on the issue,which might in turn lead to a Scottish Government changing the current law.

  6. @Duncan, pretty sure I’m not the one missing the point, if the Labour party as was stated want to “take the SNP to task on equality” surely a sensible 1st step would be not to block Holyrood from getting powers over equality legislation.

    On your 2nd point based on past experience I trust the Scottish Govt (no matter which party are in control) to legislate in the interests of the Scottish people far far more than I do the UK Govt in Westminster who’s main focus is on what is in the best interest of the City of London & SE England.

    1. I think that’s a little unfair.Sure,the Tories aren’t going to do Scotland any favours.I don’t think anyone should take it for granted that Labour will win the next UK election,because it’s going to take a lot of hard work to achieve that,but if Labour regains power and assuming Jeremy is in charge,we could see a very different scenario.

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