Preston’s ‘scandalous’ gender pay gap laid bare as fresh bid begins to become real living wage city

Preston has launched a renewed push to ensure all the city’s workers are paid the real living wage.
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The move comes as new figures reveal a more than £100 average pay gap between male and female employees in Preston.

The city council became the first local authority in the North of England to pay its own staff the independently-set living wage - designed to reflect the actual cost of goods and services - more than a decade ago.

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It has since encouraged Preston’s other employers to commit to the rate, which currently stands at £10.90 per hour, in comparison to the legally-required national minimum wage of £10.42 for the over-23s.

Preston's men are still getting paid more than its women - half a century after equal pay laws were introducedPreston's men are still getting paid more than its women - half a century after equal pay laws were introduced
Preston's men are still getting paid more than its women - half a century after equal pay laws were introduced

Fifty-five Preston-based firms have so far signed up to the real living wage concept, 36 of which have been accredited by the Living Wage Foundation, the organisation that calculates the pay packet required to enable people make ends meet

However, a meeting of the full council heard that a group had now been established in order to try to persuade other employers to get on board. Made up of representatives from the public, private and voluntary, community and faith sectors, the informal body will meet regularly as it attempts to devise an “action plan” to make the real living wage a universal expectation in Preston.

Councillors were also told that the median wage for men in the city is currently £526 per week, compared to £418 for women - a “considerable difference”, said the city council’s cabinet member for community wealth building, Valerie Wise.

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She added: “I can remember the Equal Pay Act being passed in 1970 - and the government gave employers five years to work out how to get round it. But we’ve still got a huge gender pay gap, which really I think is a scandal in this day and age.”

The gap in Preston, however, is slightly less than exists at a UK-wide level, where there is a £149 difference between the £581 median weekly wage for men and the £432 earned by women.

Cllr Wise said that the real living wage would give an employee working 37 hours £403.30 per week for those - less than the median weekly pay cheque for women in Preston.

However, she stressed that because the median represented the “halfway” point in the scale of all wages paid, that meant there was still “an awful lot of women earning less than that median [city] wage of £418”.

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The meeting also heard that Preston was “over-represented” in terms of the number of people employed in the admin, care, sales and processing sectors, where wages are often lower.

That was one of the reasons, Cllr Wise said, why it was crucial to be “targeting those employers who are paying less than the real living wage.

The city council previously spearheaded an initiative to encourage payment of the real living wage across Preston in January 2020, just before the pandemic struck.