Gender pay gap about opportunity as much as pay

Lyn Marie O’Hara and Kay McKerrell
Lyn Marie O’Hara and Kay McKerrell

#uwomen20 In the 50th anniversary year of the Equal Pay Act, delegates to UNISON’s Women’s Conference slammed the continuing pay gap between men and women, which in 2019 was still almost 12%, rising to 39% in arts, entertainment and recreation. Shocking statistics.

Delegates pledged to continue the fight for equal pay through campaigning, bargaining, education and political lobbying and called for a Gender Pay Equality Charter as a basis for employer organisations to eliminate gender pay inequality.

First time delegate and first time speaker, Scotland’s Kay McKerrell highlighted the different underlying issues which contribute to the equal pay gap, as well as the obvious impact of a direct difference in pay between men and women.

“In my workplace department there are five women and three men. I get paid the same as my male colleagues, which is a good start”, said Kay.

“But, of the eight of us, three are on permanent full time contracts and the rest are not. Can you guess which way that goes?” asked Kay.

She described how she moved from a full-time permanent contact to a part time permanent contract when she came back from maternity leave.

“I was asked to make this decision before my leave ended and this was at a time when I was still breastfeeding. It was an incredibly difficult decision but I was glad to have the choice and I chose to go back part time.

“That was two years ago,” said Kay. “Over that time, I have noticed that the gender pay gap is not just about income but about opportunity.”

“I am having to seriously consider not having any more children, for fear that this will become a further barrier to my career.

“If we are going to properly tackle the gender the pay gap, we need to look at the cultures within our organisations, alongside the actual rates of pay,” urged Kay

Pensions inequality
Scottish delegate and Glasgow equal pay campaigner Lyn Marie O’Hara echoed this theme, pointing to the impact of unequal pay and part-time work on pensions too.

Lyn said, “As an equal pay claimant and a steward that represents the lowest paid women of Glasgow, our story too has many “hidden” elements.

“Whilst we had lots to celebrate when we won our equal pay claim, stories came to light amongst our membership, showing that it wasn’t just in our pay packet that we encountered inequalities.

“A huge number of these claimants had long service in their jobs. The Equal Pay Act that we “celebrate” this year FAILED to include pension rights for the part time workforce, which by definition is the women.

“So not only do the poorest paid suffer in the years of working , they then may have no pension in retirement.”

By Kate Ramsden

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