The Fawcett Society, the gender equality charity, has said that it would take 60 years for the gap to close at the rate that improvements are currently being made.
The same charity has recently released research that suggests unlawful wage discrimination may be more commonplace than previously known of or feared.
According to the Fawcett Society, three in five women don’t know what their male colleagues earn or believe they are illegally paid less for equivalent work.
The Conservative government has accused Labour of “over-promising”, arguing that the gap is at a record low and that there has been “huge progress since 2010” under Conservative rule.
The Trades Union Congress estimates that the pay gap would close in around 35 years, should improvement continue at current rates.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, welcomed Labour’s announcement. “These proposals would help bring about real change for working women,” she said. “Too many employers are getting away with treating women like second-class citizens, especially when they have children”.
Labour would fine organisations that fail to report their data on gender pay. The party would also extend maternity pay to 12 months from the current nine, and introduce free childcare for two- to four-year-olds.
The CBI’s chief UK policy director, Matthew Fell, told the BBC that while firms share Labour’s goal, “Creating inclusive workplaces where everyone can thrive is the only way to tackle gender inequality at work”.
Fell argued that the wide range of factors behind the gender pay gap – including childcare commitments, career progression, and careers advice – require businesses and government to work in partnership.
Labour have also announced that they would introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour – above the level recently set by the Living Wage Foundation, and well above the statutory minimum.