Central to the recommendations, which include action for employers, unions and the government, is the call for a change in the law to require employers to review their pay systems to ensure they do not discriminate against women.
Julie Mellor said: 'The UK has the worst record in Europe on equal pay. Many employers don't even realise that their pay system could be biased against women, but they have a crucial part to play in reducing the pay gap. We set up the Equal Pay Task Force to find out what needs to be done to root out pay discrimination.
'Britain can't afford to ignore the pay gap. Closing the gap will be good for women, good for their families and good for the economy. To get equality into the pay packet we need the commitment of all key players - employers, the unions and the government.'
Bob Mason, chair of the Equal Pay Task Force, said: 'Over the last year we have talked about the pay gap to employers, unions and individuals around the country, as well as examining research and expert opinions. We found a worrying lack of awareness of the problem, and even where people knew about the pay gap, they simply didn't have the tools to tackle it. Unequal pay is unjust and unlawful, it's time we did something about it.'
Tessa Jowell, minister for employment, said: 'In their working lifetime, women with average skills earn£241,000 less than a man with equivalent skills. This is not an acceptable price to pay for being a woman.
'This government is firmly committed to a renewed drive to close the pay gap. We broadly welcome the findings of the EOC's Task Force report and are already taking action to speed up and simplify employment tribunals. We are also giving financial backing to the EOC's work with businesses and trade unions to develop voluntary pay reviews.
'Women too need to be more aware of their existing employment rights and
recent legislation so they can play their part in getting equality in the
The task force came up with recommendations for action in five areas:
publicising the facts - this involves action by the EOC, employer bodies like the CBI, and the unions
improving equal pay legislation, introducing mandatory pay reviews and a streamlined tribunal process
improved guidance for employers and unions and a government requirement for pay reviews in the public sector
opening up discussion about pay, with reporting of pay reviews in employers' annual report
the government should use policies such as the National Minimum Wage the National Childcare Strategy, and the National Skills agenda to help narrow the pay gap.
The Gender Pay Gap: A Research Review is also published today by the EOC. Its findings informed the task force's recommendations.
Commenting on the research, Julie Mellor said: 'British women don't choose to be low paid. Discrimination in pay exists and must be tackled. We could also learn from the example of other countries, where part-time work does not have to mean low paid and low status work, or where areas of work dominated by women are not necessarily undervalued.
In the Netherlands the average hourly wages of women working part-time are 93% of full-timers. In Australia women nurses earn 18% more per hour than men across the workforce.'
The report concludes that individual women can't shape pay systems. Closing the pay gap requires action by government, employers and trade unions.
The EOC is also unveiling an innovative new cinema advertising campaign that will be seen by around 2 million people at cinemas across the country from the end of March.
1. Just Pay and The Gender Pay Gap: A Research Review and summary documents are available on the EOC website or from the EOC on the numbers below.
2 Equal pay case studies are available from the EOC press office. Case studies of employers who have taken action on equal pay are included in an annex to Just Pay.
3 The Equal Pay Task Force was set up as part of the Valuing Women campaign in October 1999 and includes business leaders, trade union officials, civil servants and academics. It has been gathering evidence from employers around the country and will present its recommendations in February 2001.
4. The Valuing Women campaign was launched by the EOC in October 1999. It is a three-year campaign designed to reduce the gender pay gap by eliminating those elements of the pay gap that are due to sex discrimination in payment systems. The campaign has been underpinned by a programme of research on equal pay. Three surveys of the attitudes of students, line managers and the general public have been carried out and the research findings have been brought together in 'Attitudes to Equal Pay'. Two briefings 'Women and Men in Britain: Pay and Income' and 'Undervaluing Women', are also available on the EOC website.
5. Gender equality in pay practices, the findings of research carried out by NOP Business in summer 2000 for the EOC, and published in January 2001, is also available on the EOC website. It involved a telephone survey of senior human resource managers in 301 larger organisations (with at least 200 employees); telephone interviews with national trade union officials; and in-depth case study research in 21 selected organisations.
6. The Code of Practice on Equal Pay, which was issued by the EOC in January 1997, is aimed primarily at larger employers and trade unions but it is not legally enforceable. However, an employment tribunal may take account of any failure to consult it.
A copy of The Gender Pay Gap: a Research Review and also Just Pay The Report of the Equal Pay Task Force as well as summary documents can all be found on the EOC website, www.eoc.org.
7.The equal pay task force's website address is: www.bt.com/equalpaytaskforce.
EQUAL WORK EQUALS EQUAL PAY, SAYS EMPLOYMENT MINISTER
Speaking at the launch of the EOC's taskforce report on equal pay today, employment minister Tessa Jowell said: 'At the start of the 21st century, the fact that there is a pay gap at all between women and men is fundamentally wrong - let alone that
that there is a pay gap as high as 18%. Let me be quite clear: in a modern economy, in this day and age, unequal pay for equal work is totally unacceptable.
'The EOC task force's report is equally clear on the injustice of the pay gap, particularly from employers' and businesses point of view - and I'm pleased that so many employers around the country were given an opportunity to give their views.
'The report focuses on pay discrimination by employers. The Government is committed to strong and successful businesses. We want to see companies trading profitably. But we also believe in standards at work.
'Just as we are committed to helping improve the work-life balance for individuals, so too we want to see employers strike a similar balance at company level. That means successful companies. But it also means treating all employees fairly - and ending pay discrimination against women.
'However, we reject the idea that this is some kind of burden on business. Certainly employers have a responsibility towards their employees - to treat them fairly. But there is a real competitive gain here for employers.
'Treating employees fairly increases satisfaction, increases recruitment and increases productivity. A bigger, more diverse workforce is good for business - with so many women entering the workforce the pool of talents, skills and potential available to employers is increasing all the time.
'Since the Equal Pay Act was introduced thirty years ago, the proportion of women in the workforce has increased dramatically from eight and a half million then to twelve and a half million now. Women now make up a half of the workforce - that is half of the workforce now, compared to a third then.
'And good employers with fair pay systems will be in a much stronger position to attract recruits - they will be an 'employer of choice'.
'We in the government are of course looking at the pay gap too - recognising that:-
- part of the pay gap is due to discrimination (the report suggests this accounts for 25-50% of the pay gap); and
- part is due to other factors, such as occupational segregation and lack of flexibility in many higher paid jobs, which in effect penalise many women for the choices they make.
'The prime minister signalled earlier this month a new drive from the government on equal pay, and while it would be wrong for me on the day of the EOC's own report to overshadow it with our own measures, I can say that we will bring forward as soon as we can our proposals for helping tackle the pay gap still further.
'We want to see strategies in place which will help ensure that the ladder of opportunity - including pay - can be climbed by all women.
'We will also set out what we are already doing to help women balance their work and home responsibilities and to support women returning to work after having a family.'
'I believe we have done a lot to support women. But there is a lot more to do. Legislation is not the only way forward. Much can be done by good practice, and by good example.
'But in this area, legislation has been vital: the Equal Pay Act a generation ago; and the help our Government has given women in the last few years with the introduction of the first-ever statutory national minimum wage.
'A key supporting strand of action is to make sure legislation works effectively. There are two elements here:
- tackling delay and complexity in equal pay cases
- and looking at some of the key recommendations coming from the Task Force.
'Let me say a word about each of these.
'First we need to speed up and simplify equal pay tribunal procedures.
'Our consultation on this has just ended. Although we are still analysing the results I am pleased to report that there was strong support for our proposals. The task force recommendations in this area are welcome confirmation that our proposals are well-founded. We will consider how best to take on board relevant Task Force
recommendations alongside the next steps in our work on streamlining tribunal procedures.
'The proposals in our consultation paper are:
- shortening and simplifying the rules on how tribunals deal with equal pay cases
- helping tribunals to decide cases more quickly by calling in an assessor to give expert advice
- simplifying claims procedures where a group of women have essentially the same case
- cutting out the delays caused by lots of different experts giving evidence - just the independent expert appointed by the tribunal will give evidence
- removing a loophole which allowed tribunals to dismiss a claim before it was properly investigated
- questionnaires for women to get key information from employers when deciding whether to bring a case.
'This package of changes will make cases quicker, easier and fairer to both parties. For example - a questionnaire would help gather evidence at an early stage, using just one set of forms for a group of women would streamline handling; use of assessors would enable the tribunal to determine more cases itself; just hearing
evidence from an independent expert would speed the process and overhauling the rules of procedure would cut bureaucracy. We will be taking forward changes over the coming months
'Second, we are very interested in the idea of promoting and encouraging employers to carry out voluntary pay reviews. In particular, we welcome the EOC's intention to develop the model for pay reviews in partnership with business, unions and other key
'We want to ensure that pay reviews are both workable for business and effective for women.
'As the Task Force makes clear employers need access to the tools and expertise to do pay reviews. I am pleased to announce that we have agreed an initial extra #100,000 in funding for the EOC to support work with employers on building the capacity for them to do pay reviews. This work will include developing software to help employers with computerised pay systems do pay reviews.
'But this isn't just an agenda for business. It is important that we work to ensure equal pay throughout the civil service.'
'In the wider public sector, also, there is much best practice to build on, e.g. the work on an Agenda for Change in the NHS.
'In the further and higher education sectors we have made it clear that we expect equal pay issues to be addressed as a condition of substantial additional funding which has recently been announced.
'I am also pleased to announce we have agreed extra funding of #70,000 for the further education sector to specifically support work to develop a job evaluation system geared to the needs of the sector.
'Everyone has their part to play in the battle against equal pay - not just government. I am pleased that the task force recognised this. Our challenge - which I think we can achieve - is to ensure that all key players work together on all fronts to tackle the pay gap.
'We are committed to helping women break the cycle of restricted choices and limited chance to progress. We want to see that women's talents are used to the full and are fairly rewarded.
'An 18% pay gap is too high. An 8% pay gap is too high. A 0.8% pay gap is too high. Any pay gap is too high. Our message is clear: equal work equals equal pay.'
This notice applies to Great Britain
1. Tessa Jowell was speaking at the launch of the EOC Task Force report 'Just Pay' on 27 February. The report included a series of detailed recommendations including that employers should be required to do pay reviews, i.e. examine their pay systems for gender pay inequalities. The EOC intends to develop a model for pay reviews in partnership with business and trade unions.
2. The Consultation Paper on speeding up equal pay cases 'Towards Equal Pay for Women' was published on 11 December 2000.