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Equal Pay Day shows gap is closing but there is still work to be done

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Back in the summer, David Cameron said there had been “a slew of good news” for advocates of gender equality.

But as Equal Pay Day on Monday, November 9 showed, Government efforts to address the gender pay gap are not quite there yet.

It is true that Equal Pay Day – the day when campaigners claim women will be working for “free” for the remainder of the year – is five days later than 2014’s, but the headline figure on pay gap is still there. It still stands that women today earn just 81p for every pound a man gets paid.

Minister for Women and Equalities, Nicky Morgan, said: “It reminds us of the progress still to be made. We’ve made great strides but we won’t stop until we’ve consigned the gender pay gap to the history books and pushed through those barriers which prevent women fulfilling their potential.”

Legislation has been a key weapon in the fight for equal pay. The trouble is that legislation for equal pay has been in place for 45 years. The Equal Pay Act, passed by a Labour government in 1970, declares that two people doing the same job at the same skill level for the same employer regardless of gender should already be paid the same wage.

In the years since this legislation was first introduced, there have been all sorts of laws put through to try to close the gap. There have been several acts promoting maternity rights, the minimum wage, and discrimination laws.

There was the right to allow parents to share parental leave (brought in this year), plus schemes encouraging employers to assess pay by gender, and setting targets for the number of women on the boards of FTSE 100 companies.

This, said Sam Smethers, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society – the charity behind Equal Pay Day, is all good news.

She said: “There has never been a better opportunity to close the pay gap for good. Progress has stalled in recent years but with real commitment from government and employers, together with action from women and men at work, we could speed up progress towards the day when we can consign it to history.”

David Cameron has vowed to “end the gender pay gap in a generation”, and set out new rules forcing every company that employs more than 250 people to publish the difference between the average pay of its male and female employees.