20 October 2020

Stella Creasy MP introduces Bill to give women the Right to Know

6 in 10 Conservative voters support improving equal pay law

New data published today by The Fawcett Society, shows that only 3 in 10 (31%) working women agreed that their employer would tell them if their male colleagues earned more for the same work, if they asked. The other 7 in 10 (69%) women either disagreed or were unsure, meaning that they would have to rely on male colleagues to reveal their pay or go through a lengthy court case to find out if they are experiencing pay discrimination. Even fewer working women aged over 55 said their bosses would be straight with them, just 2 in 10 (23%).

The new poll from Savanta ComRes shows that the British public supports a new reform that would give women the Right to Know: 6 in 10 (62%) said that if a woman is not being paid equally for doing the same job as a man, she should be given the information about his pay that she needs to challenge the situation.

Today, Stella Creasy MP is introducing the Equal Pay Implementation and Claims (EPIC) Bill 2020 into Parliament, co-signed by MPs from the Conservative, Labour, SNP, Lib Dem, and Green parties and drafted by the Fawcett Society. This Bill will make access to this essential information easier by giving women the legal right to request pay data relating to male colleagues, with appropriate safeguards on the information.

Equal pay for equal work was made a legal right 50 years ago in the Equal Pay Act 1970, but pay discrimination continues. A fundamental reason is that unless a woman knows what her colleagues earn, she cannot know if she is being paid equally.

The Bill has cross-party support among MPs, and the Right to Know reform is also supported by 6 in 10 (62%) Conservative voters and 7 in 10 (71%) Labour voters. Support is equally high across England and the devolved nations, and across social classes.

Stella Creasy, MP Walthamstow, said:
“Barbara Castle’s legendary equal pay legislation was passed before I was even born, yet still women in this country don’t get paid the same as men for their work. The gender pay gap in 2019 stood at 17.3%, which means that on average, women were paid approximately 83p for every £1 men were paid. Millions of women are on low pay because of injustice, not their inability to do the same as their male counterparts.”

“Many women don’t even know they are subject to pay discrimination, leaving them unable to get redress without having to turn to legal action. Introducing the "Right to Know" will mean that women can have the evidence they need to challenge employers if they believe a man doing the same work is getting paid more, without being forced to go to a tribunal. Together with strengthened requirements for gender pay gap reporting and BAME pay gap reporting, these measures will help deliver what our predecessors demanded – fair pay for a fair day’s work for all. I don’t want my daughter’s generation to still have to fight this battle - the time has come to make equal pay a reality once and for all”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:
“Women have had the right to equal pay for half a century – but equal to what? Without the Right to Know, the vast majority of women just can’t say for sure whether they are being discriminated against. “Coronavirus is turning the clock back on gender equality. This relatively simple change is essential to enable women to access their basic right to equal pay and build a more equal future.”

In 2019 Government committed to “review the enforcement of equal pay legislation to ensure it is working as effectively as possible”. This Bill sets out what is required to achieve that ambition. In addition to the Right to Know, it also includes changes to:

  • make the system fairer by ending unfairly strict time limits,
  • give women back pension rights lost because of pay discrimination and damages for the emotional harm suffered,
  • ensure that rules which stop employers from denying women equal pay rights via complex ownership structures continue to exist after Brexit.

The Bill also improves gender pay gap reporting by reducing the threshold to employers with 100 staff, introducing mandatory action plans, and including ethnicity pay gap reporting.

The Fawcett Society drafted the Bill with a panel of legal and HR experts, chaired by Daphne Romney QC. It is supported by Kay Collins, a former chef for a lead UK catering firm who discovered she was being paid £6k less than a male colleague for the same work. Kay won her equal pay case and started a petition, which now has over 55,000 signatories, asking people across the country to back her and support a change in the law so companies can no longer hide discrimination.

To support the EPIC Bill, The Fawcett Society is calling on people to take two steps to be part of their campaign to fight for the #RightToKnow:

Further findings of the research

Support for the Right to Know:

  • 7 in 10 (69%) women and a clear majority of men (55%) agreed that if a woman is not being paid equally, she should be given the information about a male colleague’s pay that she needs in order to challenge the situation.
  • Support increases with age: 69% of men and women age 55 and over support the Right to Know compared to 54% of men and women age 18-34.

Knowledge about colleagues’ pay is similar among men and women:

  • 31% of female workers said their employer would tell them if they were paid less than a male colleague doing a same job if they asked; 29% of male workers said their employer would tell them if they earned less than a female colleague.
  • Only 23% of female workers age 55 or over, compared to 37% of female workers age 18-34, said their employer would tell them if they were being discriminated against.
  • There is no difference in answers between men and women who work part-time or full-time.

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Editors Notes:
1. Data in the report draws on interviews conducted online by Savanta ComRes of 8,425 UK adults aged 18+ between 18 September and 12 October 2020. Data were weighted to be representative of United Kingdom adults by age, gender, region, ethnicity, and socio-economic characteristics, including social grade. This data allows us to understand the experience of and support for the Right to Know among the UK population as a whole.

2. The Right to Know policy has already attracted frontbench Labour Party support https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/keir-starmer-equal-pay-coronavirus_uk_5ecff3fcc5b6545f2d186429

3. The Fawcett Society’s report, Why Women Need a Right to Know, which sets out the arguments for this change, is available at https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/why-women-need-a-right-to-know-shining-a-light-on-pay-discrimination

4. The drafted legislation as laid in the House of Lords earlier this year is available at https://services.parliament.uk/Bills/2019-21/equalpay.html

5. Co-signatories of the Bill are listed below:
• Stella Creasy
• Caroline Nokes
• Neil Gray
• Nadia Whittome
• Chris Bryant
• Florence Eschalomi
• Anne McLaughlin
• Chris Evans
• Bell Ribiero Addy
• Christine Jardine
• Caroline Lucas
• Harriet Harman