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Unions urged to use new pay rules to fight for women’s equality

6 April 2017

The NUJ will work with media employers to ensure that data is collected on the gender pay gap and that policies are put in place to eliminate it when new regulations come into force on April 6, 2017.

The gender pay reporting legislation requires employers with 250 or more staff to reveal the pay gap between their male and female workers each year.  Employers will have up to 12 months to publish this information on their website and a government site.

Employers will have to publicise:

  • The overall gender pay gap for employees, using mean and median average hourly pay.
  • The proportion of men and women who received a bonus in a 12-month period.
  • The difference in bonus payments (mean and median) between male and female workers over a 12-month period.
  • The proportion of women and men employees in four pay bands across the employer's overall pay range.

“Journalists in the UK”, a report by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, found that more than half of the women it surveyed earned less than £2,400 a month compared with 35 per cent of men, and males are considerably more likely to have a salary of more than £40,000 (22 per cent of women and 36 per cent of men).

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations’ 2017 edition of its “State of the Profession” report revealed a pay inequality gap of £5,784, a modest reduction of £220 on last year’s figure.

In the UK, the overall percentage difference in men and women's pay is 13.9 per cent for full-time employees and 17.3 per cent for all employees.

One reason for the lack of action on the gender gap could be the paucity of women on the boards of media companies. The BBC has 10 men and four women, the proportion at Sky is 11:3, ITV 7:3, ITN 7:1; Channel 4 9:3; Trinity Mirror 6:2, Archant 6:1, Johnston Press 6:1 and Newsquest 13:2.

Séamus Dooley, acting general secretary of the NUJ, said:

"We will be encouraging all employers, regardless of the number of employees, in the media to take the gender pay gap seriously. This change in law is helpful, but it is only a start, and should include medium-sized companies and impose sanctions on companies discriminating against women in the workplace.

"Our pay surveys have found women doing the same job as their male colleagues who are being paid less. The union has won cases where female members have been discriminated against, but how on earth can media companies allow this practice to occur?

"Change must start at the top. It is clear that most media companies have very few women on their boards of directors. Measures must be taken to recruit women to these boards.

"Our members have told us they lose out at work because they have to juggle family responsibilities with work commitments. They have had to take career breaks or worked part-time and have lost out on promotion. Employers need to remove the barriers at work which prevent women being able to achieve their potential."

The issue of pay equality and gender balance has long-featured on the NUJ’s agenda and was discussed at the reps' summit held in Manchester on Saturday as part of the Local News Matters Week. Among the contributors was NEC member Steve Bird.

Steve Bird, who is also vice-chair of the NUJ's Newspaper and Agencies Industrial Council, said:

"All trade unionists will welcome the gender pay gap reporting regulations that come into effect today – they are set to throw light on the continuing inequality facing women, particularly when it comes to pay discrimination by employers.

"While these new rules affect only companies with 250 or more employees and have few sanctions against companies failing to bridge the pay gap, they will reignite the discussion about why any pay gap exists and about what individual companies could and should do about this.
"Active trade unionists need to make sure that they are a part of this debate and are pushing employers to close the gap and end any discrimination, conscious or unconscious.

"Unions have always been at the heart of this movement – from the strikes by female bus conductors in 1918 to the women at Ford Dagenham in 1968 whose action heralded the Equal Pay Act of 1970 – and NUJ chapels need to be heard now if we are to make this latest legislation meaningful.
"We should be urging our employers to consult over fair pay and welcome the opportunity to bring in best-practice standards that could not only be a step towards equality but also serve to retain and recruit talented employees."

Regardless of whether your employer is covered by the new gender pay gap regulations or not, there are lots of ways that union reps can work to close the gender pay gap:

  • Make gender pay part of annual pay bargaining every year. Survey members, develop a plan of action to challenge pay discrimination through negotiation, and make sure employers know what your objectives are. Get your employer to carry out equality impact assessments of any proposed pay or employment policy changes.
  • Provide learning and development for reps and any others who might be able to influence the structure of a pay system or the outcome of pay negotiations. For example, make sure reps are fully briefed on the Equality Act 2010 Code of Practice on Equal Pay.
  • Get your employer to do an equal pay audit every three years. Unions should be fully involved in the design, implementation and monitoring of the outcomes of an equal pay audit.
  • Get your employer to publish gender pay gaps (especially if they refuse to do a full equal pay audit). Ask for gaps by workforce, by pay grade, job description, in starting salaries, and in bonus or other extra payments, using both the median and the mean, and also to measure the full-time and part-time gaps separately. Employers can do this even if they are not covered by the new gender pay gap reporting regulations
  • Hold meetings with members to discuss issues that affect female employees and raise these with managers. Discuss ways to support women taking maternity leave and to encourage them to return to employment, for example proposing a higher salary on return to reflect any missed pay increases.
  • Raise the idea of targets for equal numbers of male and female staff in senior roles.
  • Push for pay settlements that favour the lower paid – these tend to include disproportionately more women.

On 26 April, the Women and Equalities select committee is questioning Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Women and Equalities, on the Government's response to its recommendations on closing the gender pay gap. You can watch it online. The Gender Pay Gap online forum can be found here and the deadline is Wednesday 12 April at 12 noon. 

Tags: , equality, pay, gender, gender gap, Women and Equalities select committee, boards, equal pay, equal pay gap, gender pay reporting legislation