Sheffield’s trade unionists call for action on the gender pay gap

On this International Women’s Day we call on Sheffield’s employers and others, including national and multinational firms with operations in our city, to do more to tackle the scourge of the gender inequalities.

Nearly half a century on form the Equal Pay Act, Sheffield TUC1 is calling for greater action on the gender pay gap in our city. Sheffield City Council’s own Women in Sheffield report in 2017 showed that while the gender pay gap in our city is narrowing, it is narrowing at slower rate here than it is nationally, and that at the current rate it will take more than 20 years before the city achieves pay equality.

In the past the gender pay gap was about women being paid less for doing the same work as men. These problems still exist, as shown by the recent dispute with Glasgow council. However, today the gender pay gap is much more likely to be due to women disproportionately occupying lower skilled, lower status roles. Additionally men dominate, managerial and executive positions, and higher paid scientific, technical and engineering professions

For the first year in which the government made the reporting of the gender pay gap a statutory obligation (for companies employing over 250 people), Sheffield TUC has looked at some of the submissions from the large employers in this city. Although the reasons for these gender pay gaps can be complex, we note huge gender pay gaps at Academy Schools such as Mercia Learning Trust (60%2) and Tapton Academy (32%), big industrial and manufacturing companies such as Linbrooke Services (40%) and Swann-Morton (33%), and technology firms such as Insight UK (29%). We also see significant gender pay gaps at educational institutions that are amongst the biggest employers in the city, such as Sheffield Hallam University (16%), Sheffield College (15%) and the University of Sheffield (11%), and big public sector employers such as South Yorkshire Police (22%), Sheffield Teaching Hospitals (10%) and Sheffield City Council (8%).

Lisa Smith, a Convenor in The City of Sheffield UNISON branch has stated: we work with and represent (predominantly) women who are in low pay, low status yet high expectation roles in schools across the city. School workers, particularly those supporting in classrooms and with Special Educational Needs/High needs pupils are grossly underpaid for the highly responsible roles they undertake. We firmly believe this is for no other reason than the fact that it is a predominantly female workforce.

Simon Murch, Joint Branch Secretary of Sheffield District of the National Education Union pointed out: A 2017 NEU member survey on pay progression found that a third of teachers eligible for progression who had been absent for all or part of that school year because of pregnancy or maternity leave had been denied pay progression. The NEU presses employers to meet their statutory equality duties. The Equality Act 2010 requires public bodies in the UK to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination and advance equality of opportunity. 

And Bob Jeffery, Anti-Casualisation Officer at Sheffield Hallam University and College Union branch added: Our own evidence suggests that nationally it will take 40 years to close the gender pay gap. We also note at Sheffield Hallam a slight deterioration in the gender pay gap between 2017 and 2 018. While our employer is taking steps to address the issues, we are concerned at the disproportionate number of women concentrated into the lowest (often non-academic) grades.