50 Years since Equal Pay Act and the fight goes on

28 May 2020

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act. A landmark piece of legislation that striking women in Dagenham won for all women in the workplace.

Data published by the Fawcett Society earlier this year showed:

  • Four in 10 people (40%) do not know that women have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Only one-third of people (36%) know women have a legal right to ask male colleagues about their salary if they suspect pay discrimination.
  • In most workplaces, people do not talk openly about what they earn – with only 24% reporting that salaries are discussed openly in their workplace.

65 year wait in civil service

Women in the civil service have been waiting for 65 years for the equal pay they were promised.

On 25 January, 1955, Tory chancellor of the Exchequer Rab Butler pledged that there would be pay equality in the ‘non-industrial’ civil service by 1 January 1961, but 65 years later across the civil service women are paid 11.1% less than men, and this gender pay gap must end.

Civil Service World reported earier this year that gender pay gaps increased at 5 major government departments last year, according to the latest figures, while the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had the greatest difference in average earnings for men and women at 16.6%.

The Ministry of Justice and the Home Office followed, with 15.9% and 14.6% respectively – and the pay gap had widened slightly at both departments since the previous year.

Rounding out the top five were DfT, at 13.8%, and the Department for Exiting the European Union, at 13.6%.

Also tipping over the 10% mark were the Department for International Trade, the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Foreign Office.

Some reporting showed that while gender pay gaps are lower than the national average at all of the 18 largest central departments, half still pay their female staff 10% less than their male staff.

And while most ministries have made progress on closing their pay gaps in the last two years, gaps widened at five of the 18 central ministries between 2017-18 and 2018-19.

At the Department for International Trade, the figure shot up from 2.7% in 2017 to 9.4% in 2018, rising again to 12.9% last year. At the Foreign Office, the gap increased from 8.2% to 10.1% in a year.

There is a gender pay gap because there are fewer women in senior jobs and because there are more women in lower paid grades, in lower paid departments.

PCS pay demands

We made interim demands during the coronavirus pandemic to significantly raise pay above inflation and across the board. 

But despite PCS members, many of them being key workers going above and beyond the call of duty, in DWP, HMRC, the Home Office and elsewhere, ministers decided to cap any pay rise at between 1.5 and 2.5%. RPI inflation is currently running at 2.6% and our members have already suffered 10 years of pay restraint.

Pay was a key issue for many respondents to our latest survey, with 85% of the more than 14,000 members who replied saying they strongly supported our national pay claim and 72% strongly agreed that we should step up our campaign to support that claim.

If you want to get more involved in PCS, register to become a PCS Advocate.

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