Jo Swinson launches Lib Dem campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace

jo swinson Alex Folkes/Fishnik PhotographyIn an email to party members, Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister for Consumer Affairs & Equalities, has launched a new campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace:

Shockingly, in 2012 women were paid nearly 20% less than their male colleagues. It is an unacceptable difference and one the Liberal Democrats are determined to tackle.

Today [Friday] we’re announcing plans to require large companies to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers. This will create pressure from staff and customers to close any pay gap and deliver real equality in the workplace.

Unequal pay is a concern for both women and men. The principle of equality is one our party holds dear, and in practice women earning less reduces household budgets up and down the country. Over a lifetime the lost earnings can be tens of thousands of pounds.

So, I do hope you will add your name to our campaign to deliver equal pay in the workplace.

The pay gap has several causes. In Government we are working to encourage wider career choices for young women so that they are not concentrated in lower paid roles and sectors of our economy. Our radical shake up of the workplace is aimed at ensuring flexible working is seen as the norm. It means that parents can share leave after a baby is born and will help deal with the element of the pay gap attributed to women having more time out of the labour market.

But part of the answer is about employers taking responsibility for their pay policies, and analysing any gaps that exist. Making large companies with over 250 employees publish the average pay of their male and female staff will create transparency about the gender pay gap. Women should be given the same opportunities and be properly rewarded for their work – it’s as simple as that.

You can sign up to the campaign here.

Photo: Some rights reserved by Liberal Democrats, Alex Foulkes/Fishnik Photography

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  • Fine work – but will transparency alone be enough to close the gap? I’m concerned that major companies will be able to handle the “pressure from staff and customers” without breaking sweat.

    Many large companies will argue that all roles are paid according to workload and responsibility, and that it just so happens that lower paid roles are predominantly taken by women. So why don’t we support an independent review of that? Suppose a company size bigger than x, has a gender pay gap of more than y. This could trigger an independent review of pay structure which would confirm that roles are paid fairly, or whether there’s a gender element in the difference. If evidence was found, this could then lead towards equal pay claims.

    Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but I think we could go further and faster here.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jul '14 - 12:11pm

    Absolutely laughable and this sort of stuff puts me off the party. So we have to go beyond same pay for same work and work towards “same pay, even if different work”.

    Ridiculous, there isn’t the qualified women available and if people want to spend time trying to create their own version of a feminist utopia then they will be in a different party to me.

    Clegg and Cable also lower themselves by putting their name to such populist causes. We don’t have equal pay for Lib Dem ministers do we, so how can this be delivered in the private sector?

    Even if it happens, it should happen naturally, not through constant pestering.

  • What worries me is that this campaign is – as usual – being led by a woman, with no men obviously in sight.

    Harriet Harman’s case demonstrates the problem. Five years ago, Labour searched in vain for the ideal replacement for Gordon Brown. David M was too dry, Ed M was too wet, Alan Johnson said he wasn’t up to it. Harriet Harman was in many ways better than all these, but she had a different “problem”. She was seen as too much of a single-issue feminist campaigner to take on the much broader job of leading the Labour Party.

    Now, whose fault was that? Arguably, it was the fault of others in Labour who left her to plough a lone furrow.

    I hate to praise any Tory, but the man who is showing a good example, by identifying with a woman’s issue and thus making it an everybody’s issue, is William Hague.

  • Eddie Sammon 20th Jul '14 - 12:39pm

    Just to make sure I’m being super fair: having the same job title doesn’t mean you are doing the same job. It is possible to pay everyone on the same job title the same, but it won’t be the same work. If people over-regulate employment then more women will be practically forced to go into self-employment and the “profit gap” is even bigger than the “pay gap”, so it’s not even in women’s best interests.

  • Richard Dean 20th Jul '14 - 5:29pm

    When a woman chooses – often insists – to take ten or more years out of work to look after home and children, she naturally loses experience and seniority at work. But she may not lose financially compared to her husband, since she may also insist – or they may freely agree – on equal rights over how to spend the husband’s pay in those years.

    Work experience has value to a firm and its staff, so the natural result of losing work experience can be that the average pay for women in a firm can be less than the average pay for men in that firm, even if the firm follows impeccable equality policies of equal opportunities and equal pay for equal work.

    So, it looks like “making large companies … publish the average pay of their male and female staff” will put costs on companies, open them up to unfair criticism and reputational damage, and add to risks to viability and to people’s jobs, without actually providing the information needed to achieve the equality that many people feel is right.

  • What total and utter nonsense. There’s no proof whatsoever that women get paid less than men for doing the same job, with the same experience and qualifications. Non whatsoever. Swinson and Clegg are basically toeing the agenda and peddling the lies of hard line feminist organisations, and peddling their highly misleading stats (borderline lies) to the public. What a joke.

    Oh, and if these lies had any credence, surely businesses would highly eager to employ women more than men – why pay a man 20% to do the exact same job.

  • Eddie, “having the same job title doesn’t mean you are doing the same job” – yes, it does. Otherwise the initial job spec and interview processes were flawed. It’s an established fact that women get paid less for EXACTLY THE SAME JOB. It’s not right, it’s not fair and Liberals should grasp that and fight against it. For those too lazy to research before they spout cobblers online, here’s a start :

  • Eddie, “having the same job title doesn’t mean you are doing the same job” – yes, it does. Otherwise the initial job spec and interview processes were flawed. It’s an established fact that women get paid less for EXACTLY THE SAME JOB. It’s not right, it’s not fair and Liberals should grasp that and fight against it. For those too lazy to research before they spout cobblers online, here’s a start :

    If those are too complicated :

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Jul '14 - 10:00am

    Jennie, I think you are right about shared parental leave, but there is much more to be done on changing the culture around this. Although all families will be able to choose which parent takes leave, while the gender pay gap exists, it’s more likely that a man will be the chief breadwinner. There’s also some stubborn cultural influences as well. There’s still too much talk of fathers “babysitting” when in fact they are looking after their own children, for example, and childcare is still primarily seen as a woman’s responsibility.

    I asked Vince about this at the SLF Conference on Saturday. He said that in terms of the working culture, the progressive, bright and forward looking companies will be doing all they can to keep their most talented staff and not therefore lose good female employees.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st Jul '14 - 10:02am

    Eddie, I don’t see how you can think it is remotely justifiable to pay one employee less for doing the same job than another. That is what’s happening here and now despite 40 year old legislation which is supposed to stop it.

    Have you watched the film Made in Dagenham? If not, I’d recommend you did to get some of the history of this.

  • Having read the comments above I’m confused…

    Where does “same pay, even if different work” come into the equation?….

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 1:39pm

    Jennie, the article isn’t about equal pay for equal work though. I agree with strengthening equal pay for equal work, but the article is about making sure the average working woman earns the same as the average working man and I don’t see how that is going to happen any time soon unless we practically eliminate gender roles. As Caron says, there is a lot more to be done in this regard and I would prefer a more understanding approach.

    Caron, I don’t think it is justifiable to pay the same employee less for the same job. What I mentioned was that I am concerned about going too far in the other direction where we introduce “positive pay discrimination” in order to create overall equal pay. This would be very divisive. It is not being suggested, but it looks like the only way to eliminate the pay gap if you are not going to eliminate gender roles.

    Tim Oliver, gender issues are not just about women. You make me angry by accusing me of sexist bilge. I can’t even read the rest of your horrible comment.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 1:41pm

    That applies to anyone, I’ve had anger infused into my heart again by being accused of “sexist bilge” and “blinkered sexism”. How anyone of you bright sparks are going to eliminate the pay gap without eliminating gender roles and without introducing positive pay discrimination I don’t know. Anyone who suggests they can do otherwise is living in a Marxist dream world and don’t deserve my time.

    I’m a human being, like all of you, but I try to be thoughtful and tackle all sides concerns, not just attack people and then attack them again when they respond.

  • Eddie, I notice you saying “if people want to spend time trying to create their own version of a feminist utopia then they will be in a different party to me” and that “this sort of stuff puts me off the party”.

    Can we take this as a sign that you’re leaving?

  • Well, more in hope than expectation, here’s a link to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s analysis of the gender pay gap.

    Eddie,as you have pointed out, no-one has mentioned positive pay discrimination, so kindly put away the straw man. The artcle states that there are several causes for the inequality, including the expectation that it will be women who deal with the majority of child care – is this what you mean by “eliminating gender roles”?

    Caracatus – you reproduce statistics for the bottom 10% of men and women, the number of part-time workers earning under £8 per hour and the percentage of people of each gender earning under £12 per hour – then jump from this to the conclusion that the 20% pay gap is caused by a small number of high earners. The conclusion and the evidence provided don’t seem to match.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 2:29pm

    Hi James, not at the moment.

    I will kindly put away that straw man, but it is not entirely a straw man because if discrimination has been legalised against us for jobs then why not for pay? The high pressure nature of these campaigns risk introducing it at least unofficially.

    I would like to find some middle ground with all the people I’ve argued with, but it has to start on the basis of I’m arguing against the feasibility of closing the pay gap, not against same pay for same work.

  • Eddie – what discrimination for jobs do you mean?

    Also – can you tell me what you mean by eliminating gender roles?

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 2:57pm

    Hi James, I am worried you are looking to undertake a nitpicking exercise. I don’t mind trying to reduce the pay gap, but the tone of the campaign suggests they are going to attack people who don’t pay their average female employee the same as their average male and that is something that doesn’t even happen in the Lib Dems.

  • Not trying to pick nits – just trying to find out what you’re referring to and starting to woder why you’re not willing to answer me.

  • That should read wonder rather than woder. Apologies.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 3:10pm

    James, it is just because I don’t want to derail the thread. I’ll answer your questions succinctly:

    1. All women short-lists are an example of discrimination against men. I don’t mind a bit of it, but this is too extreme in my opinion.
    2. By eliminating gender roles I mainly mean getting men to do as much childcare as women. I don’t mind promoting more of this, but to get it exactly the same will be a push.

    I don’t think these answers are very relevant to the thread, hence I was a bit reluctant to give them.


  • You originally mentioned eliminating gender roles and discriminatory legislation. If you think they’re irrelevant, it seems odd to bring them up in the first place.

    I’m not keen on all-women short lists myself, given that they lead to the uncertaity as to wheher people are in post because of their own talent and abilty or not.

    As for breaking down gender roles, I have no problem with this and hope that the recent changes to parental leave will do something to even the playing field.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 3:34pm

    Hi James, thanks for your polite tone. I want to leave space for others to comment, so I’m going to stay off here for a bit and hopefully come back to a bit more civilised debate later. I didn’t think those points were irrelevant, just not relevant enough to repeat. I’ve been criticised strongly in the past for derailing, so I get a bit nervous when it looks like I might be.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 3:51pm

    I want to offer Jo Swinson some positive feedback, instead of just bashing her. I think we should tackle conservative attitudes that think women aren’t suitable for promotion into important roles. We just need to stay away from looking like we are bashing companies and men as a whole. When the criticism isn’t targeted, it looks like slandering.


  • R Uduwerage-Perera 21st Jul '14 - 4:27pm

    “All women short-lists are an example of discrimination against men…”

    Oh come on, I would have expected this kind of comment a few years ago, and even today from Ukip and the Tories, but not from within the Liberal Democrat Party. The reality is that legislation alone does not eradicate discrimination, so unfortunately positive action policies are required to redress the imbalance.

    Let us please not try and turn Men into victims when it comes to gender discrimination for they clearly are not!

    As I have said elsewhere so long as society thinks that is it fine to discriminate against the majority of the population then they will have no trouble doing likewise to minority groups.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

    Liberal Democrat English Party Diversity Champion
    Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrat (EMLD) – Vice Chair
    Newbury Town Council – Councillor for Victoria Ward & Deputy Leader

  • Richard Dean 21st Jul '14 - 4:44pm

    If society thinks it’s fine to discriminate against women then no amount of legislation or publication of salaries will change that. Legislation will be ignored and the publication of salaries will just make people think everything is as it should be.

    People are also not helping anyone when they come out with offensive drivel like “My GOD the comments to this article are depressing”. Nor is an unsubstantiated claim of bucketloads of proof helping – particularly when other posters seem to have bucketloads of proof the other way. All that does is make men think along the lines of “Thank God we don’t have women in power – what illiberal chaos it would be if they were”.

    Many men in this party are well aware of the gender inequality problem and many are eager to resolve it. If women want places on panels and committees etc, they need to show that they have some awareness and ability, and that they can take that role responsibly. They also need to put themselves forward and go through whatever application process is needed.

  • Another point on this supposed discriminatory pay gap – the stat peddled by Swinson and Clegg includes part-time workers too. With many more women working part-time, the gap is inflated as part-time workers generally earn less.

    If you want some credibility, perhaps start by comparing full-time males against full-time females.

  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 7:15pm

    Ruwan, I know you are a deep thinking individual, as we all are, so why don’t you speak to me as one instead of coming on a thread about the pay gap and making fun of someone who didn’t want to mention all women short-lists, but was goaded to?


  • Eddie Sammon 21st Jul '14 - 10:24pm

    I want to finish this debate/argument. People who chipped in with insults, including me, should resolve some differences. Jo Swinson agrees that part of the pay gap is due to women taking more time out of the labour market, but my point is that if women want to take more time out of work then that is up to them. I don’t see how it is to do with the Lib Dems to tell women to go to work and pressure them and companies to do so. I am worried that all this pressure on companies to pay the same, regardless of women’s choices, will lead to positive pay discrimination. I know some aren’t bothered about that, but we’ll have to just accept that others are bothered about it.

    I also don’t see how it makes me a “blinkered sexist”. I see myself as “a bit of a feminist”, so is everyone who isn’t a full blown feminist a blinkered sexist? I don’t agree with the approach of saying nothing if you don’t agree with it.


  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 2:32am

    @Eddie Sammon
    You are famous for your views on women and feminists. Why not put together an article for LDV that explains your views in more detail – what they are and why you came to think that? I’m sure it would be an education for everyone

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Jul '14 - 3:52am

    Richard, I don’t think I have ever made any general comments about women. Feminism yes, but I don’t want to be seen as anti feminist because some of it is good.

    I hope to write an article shortly. I just have other minor pre-occupations.

    Good night.

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 4:03am

    Sounds like you need to write this article urgently, Eddie. Some people don’t get that impression at all.

  • David Allen 22nd Jul '14 - 5:24pm

    Richard Dean,

    “If society thinks it’s fine to discriminate against women then no amount of legislation or publication of salaries will change that. Legislation will be ignored”

    Would you like to see how it looks if we delete the word “women”, and replace it with “black people”?

  • Richard Dean 22nd Jul '14 - 5:40pm

    It looks the same, David Allen. What point are you trying to make?

  • Eddie, you say you were goaded into bringing up the subject of all-women shortlists. I say that you made veiled comments about anti-male discriminatory legislation and accused people of living in a Marxist dream world. If you’re going to make such dramatic-sounding claims and accusations, then I’m sure you realise people are going to ask you to back then up. It would be nice if you would drop the injured innocence act when this happens.

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