Tories 'turning back the clock' on equal pay

The Advertiser Series: Nicky Morgan, the Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan, the Women and Equalities Minister

WOMEN will have to wait another 60 years for equal pay if the gender wage gap continues to close at the same rate, according to a senior Labour MP.

Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for women and equalities, claims the Conservatives are "turning the clock back" for female workers by failing to do more to reduce the disparity.

In the latest in a series of summer interventions by the Shadow Cabinet, the former journalist and TV presenter will publish figures showing women still earn just 80p for every pound men take home.

The statistics - from the House of Commons library - will also reveal that the pay gap has closed at a rate of only 0.3% per year since 2010. That means with the current difference of 19.7%, it could take more than 60 years to deliver equal pay for women, she says.

By then, more than a century will have passed since the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970.

Ms De Piero, who represents Ashford, said: "Women should not have to wait more than 100 years for equal pay.

"The Tories are turning the clock back for women. More women are struggling to make work pay, earning less than the living wage and facing sky-high childcare costs. This isn't the progress our mothers, aunties and sisters fought for.

"When David Cameron claims that working women have never had it so good, women know this isn't a government that speaks for them.

"Only Labour will deliver on the promise of equal pay with pay transparency, tackle the scandal of low pay and expand access to free childcare to make work pay for families across Britain.

"Next May there is a big choice for women across this country. A Tory Britain with progress on equality stalled, more women on low wages, on zero-hours contracts and earning less than their male colleagues.

"Or a Labour future that will deliver on the promise of equal pay, tackling the scandal of low pay and delivering affordable childcare for families."

According to the Office for National Statistics' Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) 2013, women still earn just 80p for every pound men take home.

House of Commons Library calculations of ASHE data from 1997 to 2013 show the pay gap has closed at a rate of 0.3% per year since 2010.

Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan said the Government is pleased that the overall trend on the gender pay gap continues downwards.

She added: "The gap for full-time workers under 40 is now almost zero and it continues to narrow for the over-40s. However, I am clear that it remains too high and I'm committed to reducing it more.

"That's why the steps we've taken have gone far further than the last Government - by giving employees the right to request flexible working as well as introducing tax-free childcare and shared parental leave from 2015 so that women can make the right choice for them about how to balance work and families.

"We are also introducing new regulations which will give tribunals the power to order employers to conduct a pay audit, where they have been found to discriminate over pay."

Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull Lorely Burt said the gender pay gap is not closing quickly enough and called for businesses to be forced to publish the difference between what they pay men and women.

She went on: "In a fair society men and women should be equally rewarded for their work.

"It's time to make large companies publish the difference between what they pay men and women - and it's a shame that the Tories have blocked this in Government. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case strongly.

"Liberal Democrats are modernising the workplace and encouraging employers to become more family friendly - through measures like shared parental leave and the right to request flexible working."

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