“Unpaid Caring Responsibilities on Women is a Key Driver of the Pay Gap”, Says TUC in Gender Pay Gap Report

In a recent Gender Pay Gap Report, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) sheds light on the persisting gender pay gap in the UK. 

The report, based on extensive research and analysis, underscores the stark reality that women continue to face in the workforce. The gender pay gap, currently standing at 14.3%, remains a formidable barrier to achieving workplace equality.

A Deep Dive into the Report

The TUC highlights that the gender pay gap means the average woman must work 52 days—nearly two months—before she starts getting paid in comparison to the average man. Moreover, the pay gap widens significantly for women aged between 50 and 59. For this age group, it reaches 19.7%, equivalent to working 72 days for free until a specified date.

The report exposes alarming statistics, emphasising that disabled women face the highest pay gap at 35%, amounting to £7144 a year more than their non-disabled male counterparts. Additionally, the pay gap varies across sectors, with finance and insurance reporting the highest at 27.9%. Even in women-dominated sectors, such as education, the pay gap remains substantial at 21.3%.

Despite incremental progress, the TUC analysis reveals that the pay gap has been closing at a mere 0.4% annually since 2011. If this trajectory continues, it will take until 2044 to bridge the existing gap. This slow pace prompts urgent calls for targeted interventions from various stakeholders.

Unmasking the Gender Pay Gap: Unpaid Caring Responsibilities

The TUC identifies unpaid caring responsibilities as a pivotal driver behind the gender pay gap. The division and undervaluing of care work, whether unpaid or paid, significantly contribute to women’s economic disadvantages throughout their careers. Care work, disproportionately shouldered by women, compels many to reduce their working hours or exit the labour market altogether.

The report shows that women are seven times more likely to be out of the labour market due to care work, a striking contrast to the 230,000 men facing similar circumstances. This imbalance rises to 12 times more likely for Black and Minority Ethnic women, accentuating the intersectionality of the issue. The consequences of reducing hours or leaving the workforce to undertake unpaid care extend beyond immediate financial implications; they hinder women’s access to career progression opportunities.

Occupational Segregation: Undervalued and Underpaid

The gender pay gap is further exacerbated by occupational segregation, with certain sectors disproportionately attracting women workers. Occupations with a higher proportion of women tend to be undervalued, low-paid, and insecure, perpetuating the cycle of economic disadvantage. During the pandemic, women, especially Black and Minority Ethnic women, are twice as likely to be working in key worker occupations. This underlines the disparities in frontline roles.

The TUC’s analysis reveals that 2.1 million key workers were earning the minimum wage or less, and 1 in 9 were in insecure work. The precarious nature of employment, particularly for women in part-time or low-paid positions, contributes to the perpetuation of the pay gap.

Family Support and Statutory Entitlements

The TUC report advocates for reform in family support and statutory entitlements to redress the gender pay gap. While there are existing rights and entitlements for parents and carers, the report highlights affordability issues and the lack of day-one entitlements for all workers.

The UK’s statutory maternity pay is among the lowest in Europe, creating financial challenges for new mothers. The struggle extends to paternity leave. One in two families face difficulties when fathers take paternity leave, and one in five cannot afford it at all. Shared Parental Leave (SPL) uptake is deficient, with only one per cent of eligible mothers and five per cent of fathers opting for it, citing affordability as a significant barrier.

Issues extend beyond parental leave, encompassing statutory entitlements with disproportionate impacts on women, such as minimum earnings thresholds in statutory sick pay and auto-enrolment into workplace pension schemes. New in-work conditionality requirements risk penalising women in part-time jobs rather than providing proper support.

Tackling the Gender Pay Gap: TUC Recommendations

The TUC proposes a comprehensive set of recommendations to tackle the gender pay gap, emphasising both legislation and broader measures:

  • Pay Gap Legislation and Reporting:
    • Action Plans: Employers should be required to produce action plans outlining strategies to close their pay gaps.
    • Extended Reporting: Reporting requirements should extend to all employers with more than 50 employees, including smaller organisations with less than 250 employees.
    • Inclusivity: Pay gap reporting should include ethnicity and disability data for a more comprehensive understanding.
    • Pay Transparency Measures: Eliminate pay secrecy clauses and introduce measures like equal pay audits and ending salary history in job applications.
    • EU Pay Transparency Directive: Consider the EU Pay Transparency Directive for strengthening UK reporting.
  • Broader Recommendations:
    • Minimum Wage Increase: Introduce a minimum wage of £15 per hour for all workers.
    • Enhanced Statutory Entitlements: Increase statutory maternity pay, maternity allowance, and paternity pay to the real living wage as a day-one right for all workers.
    • Flexible Working: Make flexible working a genuine legal right from the first day in a job.
    • Carers Leave: Introduce 10 days paid carers leave as a day-one right for all workers.
    • Zero-hours Contracts Ban: Ban the use of zero-hours contracts.
    • Pension Gap Metrics: Develop official metrics of the gender pension gap, with an annual statutory requirement for government reporting and action plans.
    • Childcare Support: Ensure universal, flexible, high-quality childcare is available to all from the end of paid maternity or parental leave.

Moving Forward – Tackling the Gender Pay Gap

The TUC’s Gender Pay Gap Report highlights the urgent need for comprehensive measures to address the entrenched issue of gender pay disparity. Unpaid caring responsibilities emerge as a central driver of this gap, perpetuating economic inequalities for women throughout their careers. The TUC’s recommendations provide a roadmap for legislative changes and broader societal shifts to create a more equitable and inclusive workforce, where individuals are not held back by traditional gender roles and responsibilities. As the report underscores, tackling the gender pay gap requires concerted efforts from the government, employers, unions, and civil society to usher in a new era of workplace equality.

Contact us today if you believe you are facing any form of gender-based discrimination at work. Redmans Solicitors are employment law specialists and could assess your case before advising on your possible next steps.

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