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Equal Pay – Close the Pay Gap Campaign

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Jane Hutt, Minister with Responsibility for Equal Opportunities

Every employer has a statutory obligation under the Equal Pay Act 1970 to ensure that people, regardless of gender, receive equal pay for like work and equal pay for work of equal value. These have been long-standing legal requirements. The Assembly has pushed forward the equal pay agenda on two clear fronts. Much of the early work undertaken from 2001 focused on radical internal changes to the pay system. This resulted in a fairer system being introduced, which then affected other areas of the Assembly’s work, such as recruitment. At the same time, the Assembly Government, along with its partners, the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Trades Union Congress, has completed two phases of the close the pay gap campaign.

Phase three of the equal pay campaign will be launched on 22 March. The objectives of the campaign launch are to raise awareness and to gain fresh publicity for the close the pay gap campaign in Wales, and to highlight the importance of tackling pay equalities right across the public sector. They are also to reinforce the benefits of a partnership approach in this campaign, including cross-party support at the Assembly, to stress the impact of unequal pay on women, business, the community and the economy, and to highlight the economic and social benefits of achieving equal pay.

The campaign is a partnership between the Welsh Assembly Government, the Wales TUC and the Equal Opportunities Commission, and its purpose is to tackle discrimination in pay systems and to address the pay gap. There has been progress in reducing the pay gap since the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970, but not enough, with the gap currently at 12 per cent in Wales for full-time workers and 31 per cent for part-timers. This phase of the campaign is targeted at the public sector, where around 70 per cent of the workforce are women. I welcome the cross-party support for the campaign, which will be essential to its success and the re-established cross-party working group will play a valuable role in providing a scrutiny function for the work that is being undertaken in this phase of the campaign.

A summit was held last October for senior representatives of all public bodies to lay out their goals and objectives in addressing the pay gap in their organisations. We used this forum of key decision-makers from across the public sector, including trade unions, to highlight the many benefits of achieving pay equality. We also considered ways of tackling the barriers and issues identified by all organisations in moving towards a system of fair and equal remuneration for all. There was clear recognition that we need to give priority to addressing this key issue and all participants were positive in their commitment to work towards this. There was a strong recognition that greater collaborative working and the sharing of best practice across the public sector would assist in moving the agenda forward.

Public Service Management Wales is currently involved in a number of initiatives to encourage this collaborative working and to highlight the benefits of achieving equal pay, as well as developing the capacity and competence of the Welsh public sector workforce. Key to addressing unequal pay is the need to attract women into non-traditional fields and equality-proofing recruitment processes.

The equal pay summit launched a concerted 12-month plan of action. Commitments are now being made by all public sector organisations detailing the way in which they plan to tackle the pay gap. They have also provided information on where their organisation is in respect of addressing the pay gap. Using a five-stage process, they have indicated whether they are currently planning and assessing, undertaking job evaluations, undertaking pay data comparisons, examining pay differences or putting things right. Initially, reports indicate that many organisations are currently engaged in carrying out job evaluations. That will lead to the major task of introducing new pay and grading systems.

In addition to the launch event, we will be working with our partners throughout the year to increase awareness of pay issues and to raise the profile of our campaign. A series of such events are being held around Wales in early May by the Equal Opportunities Commission’s equality exchange. I will be following up this comprehensive work programme with a review summit this autumn, to ascertain what progress has been made across all sectors. We all realise that achieving equal pay is a long-term commitment that will need sustained effort on all fronts and I hope that Assembly Members will join us at the launch of the next phase on 22 March.