This week’s blog was contributed by Joanne Sawyer, Policy Adviser, at Age UK.
Whilst older women are a vital force in today’s workplaces, they tend to fare poorly in the labour market. They are more likely than men to be in lower paid, lower skilled, insecure or part time work and to have had one or more periods out of the labour market (such as to care for children or older relatives).
We are pleased that the Government is currently looking into how to support women throughout their working lives. It is proposing to require larger employees (of which Age UK is one) to report their gender pay gap (i.e. the percentage gap between men and women’s pay within their organisation).
For women under the age of 40, there is reason to be cheerful as the gender pay gap has broadly disappeared. But for those in their 40s and beyond, the picture is far less rosy. Women working full time in their 40s or those aged over 60 earn nearly 14% less than men. And women in their 50s earn 18% less than men, the highest of any working age group.
Not only is the gender pay gap significant during a women’s working life, but it affects her financial security, such as her pension, in later life.
Age UK believes that publishing gender pay gap information will help to shine a light on women’s lower pay throughout their working lives and their financial wellbeing in retirement. However, publishing information alone will not be enough, unless the Government and employers focus on the reasons for the pay gap and how to address them.
We are pleased that the Government is looking into some of these underlying issues, including how to inspire girls and young women, support women returning to work and ensure older women fulfil their potential in the workplace.
In Age UK’s response to the consultation we made a number of suggestions including that:
- employers should breakdown their gender pay gap reports into age groups and between full and part time workers;
- the Equality Act 2010 should be amended to enable people to bring claims on grounds of multiple discrimination (such as gender and age);
- Tribunal fees for employment discrimination claims should be repealed;
- carers (many of whom are women) who wish to work should be supported by Government and employers to do so;
- the right to request flexible working should be extended to all workers from day one of employment, and all jobs should be flexible by default by 2020;
- all workers should have the chance to develop their skills; older women, including those returning to work after a period of absence, should be supported to update their skills or retrain.
We believe that these proposals are a first step to better supporting older women who wish to stay in or return to work.