Trade unions demand 'serious penalties' for companies over pay inequality

TUC delegates unanimously back calls to sanction firms that fail to take action on gender pay gap

Lizzy Buchan
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 13 September 2017 14:23 BST

Unions have demanded equal pay law with "serious penalties" for firms that fail to address the gender pay gap.

Delegates at the TUC conference in Brighton unanimously backed a bid to sanction companies that fail to take action on pay disparity following warnings that current laws were “meaningless” without enforcement

Women in full-time work earn 13.9 per cent less than their male counterparts and the issue is more pronounced among minority groups, the congress heard.

It comes after the BBC faced a widespread backlash, including from Theresa May, over discrepancies in the pay of its most high-profile stars, where two thirds of people earning more than £150,000 were male.

Vicky Knight, speaking on behalf of the TUC women’s committee, warned against “ineffective tokenism” and claimed that legislation would be “completely meaningless” without sanctions to force firms to act.

She told the conference: “Although gender pay gap reporting is welcomed, we are not convinced that a naughty list of rogue employers will have the desired or in fact necessary progress on this issue.

“It can highlight the scale of the problem and we already know the full-time pay gap is 13.9 per cent with the part-time gap worryingly higher, and impacting most on those least able to manage financially.

“So legislation, reporting and enforcement are all required, and without this triumvirate, as experience has shown, anything less is ineffective tokenism.”

Top bosses face little pressure to reveal their pay gap data, she claimed, describing current rules around reporting as “meaningless” without sanctions.

Ministers were urged to consider the gender pay gap in the ongoing dispute over the 1 per cent cap on public sector pay.

Heather McKenzie, of the National Education Union (NEU), said there was fair pay could not be achieved without equal pay for women, adding: "We want to smash the cap but we want to close the gap."

The motion, which was approved unanimously, also called for “full pay transparency” across the board and a free tribunal system for workers with gender pay and maternity issues.

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