Prospect rep Ele Wade shares equal pay story on Today programme

Prospect member describes equal pay win as new gender pay measures announced

Prospect representative Eleanor Wade stressed unions' vital role in tackling pay inequality on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (Friday)

Eleanor was being interviewed about the government’s plans on gender pay gap reporting, released today. (See Eleanor’s description of the experience below.) 

Eleanor talked about the successful equal pay claim brought by Prospect against the Intellectual Property Office, which resulted in pay increases of up to £8,000 for more than 180 employees.

Transparency in pay information is extremely important to tackle inequality, she explained, before adding that support from the union was essential – without it the six IPO members would not have been able to bring their case.

Despite 40 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force, pay inequality is still an enormous problem. The overall UK gender pay gap is almost 20%, which shows that a woman, on average, earns around 80p for every £1 earned by a man.

The Equality Act 2010 provided that regulations could be introduced to require employers to publish information on the differences in pay between women and men. Last year the government conducted a consultation exercise on how these provisions could be implemented.

In its response to the consultation Prospect argued that all employers should be required to publish data. Detailed information is necessary to remove pay inequality.

The government’s response to the consultation provides that the new provisions will require annual reporting and publication of the:

  • overall gender pay gap, calculated using both the mean and median figures
  • number of women and men working across salary quartiles, and
  • pay gap in relation to bonuses.

The figures will be on basic pay and bonuses, but not overtime – despite recognition that this is often a factor which adds to  inequality.

The government has also ruled out requiring an analysis to full-time and part-time workers or detailed breakdowns of pay differences by job or grade.

It has also rejected requiring employers to investigate or give reasons for the disparity in pay.

Marion Scovell, head of Prospect legal, said: “Prospect welcomes the greater transparency that these new provisions will introduce. However it is extremely disappointing that more detailed equal pay audits will not be required.

"It will still be extremely difficult to identify real inequality, as the overall figure may mask problem areas. It seems that the government has missed the opportunity to reduce the gender pay gap.

The new regulations are expected to come into force from October 2016, but there is a further consultation on the draft. The provisions will apply to employers with at least 250 employees in England, Scotland and Wales.

Eleanor Wade – My interview on the Today programme

In anticipation of the government’s announcement on pay gap reporting, I was contacted by the TUC to ask if I would speak about the equal pay case taken by Prospect at the IPO in 2013.

This involved an early morning taxi ride to the BBC studio in Cardiff , where I was installed in a room with headphones, a lot of radio kit and not another person in sight. Quite a strange experience!

I had been briefed by the journalist on the questions I was likely to be asked, although there was some deviation in the actual interview.

I also received some last-minute external media training from my employer, which proved invaluable. Throughout the interview I reminded myself ‘that they can ask what they like, but keep control of what you say’.

In addition to answering questions, I had to debate with Tina Knight, chair of Women into Business, who took an anti-regulation stance. Her line is that government intervention is not necessary and that in 50 years’ time we will need to have a minister for men.

I was pleased to get the last word: If good employers are taking action of their own accord, there can surely be no objection to sharing good practice.

I am also pleased that I was able to emphasise the importance of having good information about the gender pay gap and that union support made it possible to make a  positive difference for hundreds of staff.

Although I was apprehensive, the experience was fun and I’m glad I had the chance to do it.

  • You can listen to Ele’s interview on BBC IPlayer from 2.33.30 to 2.41.08