When Patricia Arquette gave a rousing speech (met with roaring cheers from the audience including Meryl Streep and the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez) at the Oscars this week calling for fair pay, there were no doubt those who raised eyebrows at her political statement.
In the impassioned speech she said: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
To the majority of us it’s unambiguous. Equal pay for equal work is of paramount importance, yet it’s astonishing that even in Hollywood there is a disparity between the pay of male and female stars. Leaked emails from Sony revealed that two of its female stars on the film American Hustle, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, were paid just 7% of the profits of the film, while the male stars received 9%.
In the UK there is a similar picture. Why is there such inequality when it comes to something as basic yet as emotive as peoples pay? In 2013 the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that women still earn just 80 pence for every pound earnt by men.
Indeed under the Tories Labour says that progress to close the gender pay gap since the Tories were elected has closed, at a rate of just 0.3% a year.
It’s not just the fact that women are paid less than men in this country that’s an issue but also some of the country’s largest companies have been named and shamed by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills for failing to meet fair pay legislation.
The UK’s biggest energy supplier, SSE failed to pay the minimum wage to all its employees and East Midland Crossroads, the care worker employer, failed to pay more than £37,000 to 184 workers.
SSE said it was an oversight while East Midlands Crossroads said it was a complex matter.
Paying people on time and correctly is complex, nobody disputes that, but that’s precisely why experts are required to administer pay correctly and on time. It’s not an excuse to simply make an oversight.
We have a long way to go but a Labour government is committed to fair pay.