Today is an important day for women. It’s the day that David Cameron gave in to pressure from his Liberal Democrat coalition partners, Labour’s Gloria de Piero, and the millions of British women who have supported the campaign for equal pay, to enforce the law on pay audits.
This means companies that employ more than 250 people will be obliged to introduce mandatory pay audits and make details of their male and female staff’s pay public.
It’s expected that this will be rushed through parliament before it breaks for the general election in May. It should give women the information they need to demand pay equal to their male counterparts. For the thousands of women who signed Grazia magazine’s Mind The Pay Gap petition this is a huge victory.
Liberal Democrat employment minister Jo Swinson told Grazia: “This is a victory for all women in the UK, and in particular for everyone who has been making the case for pay transparency and helping put pressure on the Conservatives — including the inspiring ladies of Dagenham, the Fawcett Society and of course Grazia readers. It shows you really can make a difference and change the world by engaging in political campaigns.”
The news comes only a couple of days after it was reported by the UN’s International Labour Organization that the gender pay gap won’t disappear for another 70 years if things continue at the current rate. According to the report, women across the world earn 77 percent of what men earn and this figure has only improved by three percent in the last two decades.
“The overriding conclusion 20 years on from [the Fourth World Conference on Women in] Beijing is that despite marginal progress, we have years, even decades to go until women enjoy the same rights and benefits as men at work,” said Shauna Olney, Chief of the Gender, Equality and Diversity Branch of the ILO.
How will this latest news from the House of Commons affect the working woman? Could this be something fantastic to celebrate, especially given that International Women’s Day is only two days away?
What we really want to know is: what happens now?
A law has already been passed to oblige companies to carry out mandatory pay audits (known as Section 78) but it wasn’t brought into force by the present coalition government. Glenys Thornton, Labour peer and outspoken feminist, was planning to attempt to force a vote on the issue in the House of Lords on March 11. But last minute discussions between David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat deputy Nick Clegg have resulted in the announcement of the government’s own proposals, which are expected to bring pay audits into force by April 2016.