Gender Inequality in Pay

Rhonda Hammond-Sharlot LLB LLM Sols

Gender pay inequality is well recognised, and it certainly is not going away. Despite commitment at National and International levels, the gap has dropped very little since it became a main stream debate in the 1950s. There are a raft of theories as to why it exists, what can be done to address it, and why it is not working. Despite it being such a hot topic for research and legislation around the world, it seems to be a problem without a solution.
The first International commitment to ensuring gender pay equality is driven by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Over more than half a decade they have been committed to addressing this issue, which is one of their eight fundamental convention issues.
“The primary goal of the ILO is to promote opportunity for women and men to obtain decent work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Gender inequality is a key element in reaching this goal and is a cross-cutting policy driver for all ILP policy outcomes.”
The ILO have enshrined their commitment to creating equality in pay regardless of gender in a series of Convention. The first of these, C100 , was introduced on 29th June 1951, and Member States around the world signed up to the principles over the following decades. Ghana ratified the Convention on 14th March 1968. The UK took a lot longer, but eventually ratified the treaty on 15th June 1971.
The Issue of Gender Equality of Remuneration has been adopted as one of eight ‘fundamentals’ for the ILO , and has been addressed in more recent Conventions .
Convention C111, like C100, is one of the eight fundamental conventions of the ILO , showing their strong commitment to this issue. These two conventions were carried forward into the ILO declaration of fundamental Principles and Rights at Work in 1998 which designated the eight fundamental issues for the ILO.
In the UK, the ratification of the ILO C100 Equal Remuneration Convention 1951 was not the only international driver to implement Equal Pay for men and women. In 1973 the UK joined the European Union (then called the European Economic Community) and in doing so agreed to abide by the principles in the Treaty of Rome . Article 119 of that Treaty was concerned with ‘the principle of Equal Pay.’ It required that
“for the same work or for work to which equal value is attributed, the elimination of all discrimination on grounds of sex with regard to all aspects and conditions of remuneration .”
Despite all this treaty signing to show commitment, in 1982 the UK was found to be fall short of implementing the European requirements . The issue the UK was failing to implement was also a commitment in the ILO convention the UK had ratified in 1971, so clearly there was also a failure to comply with that too, although no formal action was taken by the ILO. The EU on the other hand did take formal action.
The issue related to Work of Equal Value. The Equal Pay legislation introduced in the UK in the 1970s had allowed for claims where people were doing ‘Like Work’ or ‘Work Rated Equivalent.’ For work to be rated equivalent a formal job evaluation scheme had to be in existence, and claims could be brought if that evaluation had identified a different role as being of an equivalent value. A leading example of this system is the ‘Hay Job Evaluation Method .’
The issue was that employers had to voluntarily agree to using an evaluation system. If they did not do so, they avoided claims of ‘Work of Equal Value’ as potential claimants had no means of forcing an employer to introduce such evaluation methods, and without that evidence could not bring a claim.
The matter was examined by the European union in 1982 , and the EC court declared
“….that, by failing to introduce into its national legal system in implementation of the provisions of Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 such measures as are necessary to enable all employees who consider themselves wronged by failure to apply the principle of equal pay for men and women for work to which equal value is attributed and for which no system of job classification exists to obtain recognition of such equivalence, the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Treaty;”

This declaration lead to new UK legislation that no longer required Equal Pay claimants to have a formal job evaluation in order to show that their work was of equal value.
An excellent documentary on the Case is available on line , and is well worth viewing. It is 37 minutes long, but details the chronology of the case, and the legal issues it raised.
If the UK were failing to implement the EC Treaty requirements correctly, it follows that they could not have been implementing the ILO requirements either. C100 clearly states in Article 1 (b)
‘(b) the term equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value refers to rates of remuneration established without discrimination based on sex.’
Despite amending the legislation to accommodate the Work of Equal Value claims, the situation in the UK has not improved much. A global report following up the ILO declaration in 2011 found that women still continued to earn just 70-90% of equivalent male wages. That same report details a significant of possible causes, and a sizeable amount of initiatives, legislation and other measures tried around the world, with little significant success.
The UK legislation relating to Discrimination generally has been reviewed significantly and is since 2010 has been all incorporated in one overarching Act . This Act introduced a Gender Equality Duty requiring public bodies to take action to promote gender equality of pay. It also introduces requirement to report on gender inequality of pay on certain employers.
The debate on why the gap exists and what can be done about it continues, but no clarity has been achieved. The ILO in 2011 stated
“a significant proportion of this is explained by occupational and sectoral segregation’
The European Union developed a strategy to address the problem. That strategy was implemented between 2010 and 2015, and the final evaluation is awaited.
The International Trade Union Council in 2009 also tried to evaluate the problem in 2009, looking at Global Trends and drawing robust but worrying conclusions that, despite a lot of effort and commitment, the gap was simply not reducing and showed no sign of closing.
Despite these positive steps, a recent study by the UK Institute of Fiscal Studies, reported that the gap was still 18%, but despite the initial hope at seeing the lower figure, it went on to find that the gap rose as high as 30% where women had children. This report, which is quantitate rather than qualitative in nature, reviews the effect different employment and home situations has on the gap, but does not try to offer solutions. Maybe so many possible solutions have come to nothing, all that is known is that we do not truly understand the reason for the gap, and until that is understood, solutions that work may be still a long way away.

 

References

1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
C100 Equal Remuneration Convention 1951
2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation
C111 Discrimination Convention (Employment and Occupation) 1955
C150 Workers with family responsibilities Convention 1998
C183 Maternity protection Convention 2000
2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation
European Communities Act 1972
Treaty of Rome 1957
Article 119, Treaty of Rome 1957
Council Directive 75/117/EEC
Article 1 C100 ILO Equal remuneration convention 1951
https://www.haygroup.com/uk/services/index.aspx?id=2424
Case 61/81 European Commission v United Kingdom
Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1981 (SI 1983 No 1749)
http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/sisterhood/clips/equality-and-work/equal-pay/146389.html
REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2011 International Labour Convention 100th Session Geneva available on ILO Website
Equality Act 2010
REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2011 International Labour Convention 100th Session Geneva available on ILO Website page 86
EU Strategy for Equality between women and men 2010-2015 (Sept 2010)
UC: Gender in(equality) in the labour market: An overview of global trends and developments (Brussels, Mar. 2009), p. 38.
Institute of Fiscal Studies Briefing Note 186 August 2016 The gender pay gap Elming, Joyce and Costa Dias available at https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8428
1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
C100 Equal Remuneration Convention 1951
2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation
C111 Discrimination Convention (Employment and Occupation) 1955
C150 Workers with family responsibilities Convention 1998
C183 Maternity protection Convention 2000
2008 ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation
European Communities Act 1972
Treaty of Rome 1957
Article 119, Treaty of Rome 1957
Council Directive 75/117/EEC
Article 1 C100 ILO Equal remuneration convention 1951
https://www.haygroup.com/uk/services/index.aspx?id=2424
Case 61/81 European Commission v United Kingdom
Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1981 (SI 1983 No 1749)
http://www.bl.uk/learning/histcitizen/sisterhood/clips/equality-and-work/equal-pay/146389.html
REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2011 International Labour Convention 100th Session Geneva available on ILO Website
Equality Act 2010
REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL Global Report under the follow-up to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work 2011 International Labour Convention 100th Session Geneva available on ILO Website page 86
EU Strategy for Equality between women and men 2010-2015 (Sept 2010)
UC: Gender in(equality) in the labour market: An overview of global trends and developments (Brussels, Mar. 2009), p. 38.
Institute of Fiscal Studies Briefing Note 186 August 2016 The gender pay gap Elming, Joyce and Costa Dias available at https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/8428

Rhonda Hammond-Sharlot
Sept 2016

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