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Government must ensure Covid-19 does not ‘turn the clock back’ on equal pay, warns Labour

Study finds that 50 years after the Equal Pay Act, women are still being paid less than men

THE government must act to ensure coronavirus does not “turn the clock back” on equal pay, Labour said today as a report found that women on the frontline are being paid less than men.

Fifty years on from the Equal Pay act, women are still being paid less than their male counterparts, including on the frontlines where they make up almost two-thirds of an estimated 9.8 million key workers.

Mothers are almost 50 per cent more likely to have lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies into the impact of Covid-19 on working families.

And women’s incomes are falling more steeply than men’s during the crisis, research from national poverty charity Turn2Us revealed.

Labour warned that the effects of the crisis could hold back and even reverse the continuing struggle for pay parity.

Party leader Keir Starmer, said: “Progress is stalling. Coronavirus threatens to set us back years in the fight for pay equality. 

“We must come out of this pandemic with the commitment to build a better future. 

“That means strengthening the Equal Pay Act and monitoring how this crisis is impacting on women.”

Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova said: “Labour has long warned that the UK is slipping behind on pay equality. 

“But the coronavirus crisis now looks set to further exploit those weaknesses by turning the clock back on pay equality.”

Britain slipped down the World Economic Forum’s global gender equality ranking In December, from 15 to 21.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) marked the Equal Pay Act anniversary today by declaring that coronavirus had “confirmed that pay inequality is still rife in Britain today.”

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: “Working women have led the fight against coronavirus, but millions of them are stuck in low-paid and insecure jobs.

“As we emerge from this crisis we need a reckoning on how we value and reward women’s work. Without proper change it will take decades to close the gender pay gap.”

In three of the five largest TUC-affiliated unions — Unison, Usdaw and the National Education Union (NEU)— there are more women members then men.

In the case of Unison the ratio is more than three to one, 919,373 women and 274,618 men in 2019.

Yet pay equality remains a battle-ground for the trade-union movement, not a victory.

Retail union Usdaw said that without significant action, it could take 60 years to reach pay parity between men and women.

“It is time for a new deal for women workers,” Usdaw general secretary Paddy Lillis added.

In a statement, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) said: “Women have long borne the brunt of politically driven austerity - in the workplace, the home and through the criminal-justice system. 

“How much more these stark inequalities come to the fore in a global pandemic.”

CPB executive committee member Mollie Brown said the pandemic had seen more domestic abuse and an increase in violent deaths from two a week to five.

“The struggle for a new ‘normal’ for women in Britain must start now,” she said.

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