Nurses are paid less than police officers because of sex discrimination, an independent pay review has heard.
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told the Nursing and Other Health Professionals Review Body that nurses were losing out because the profession is 90% female. It released figures showing that the average annual salary for a nurse is £21,332 – the lowest in the public sector.
Police officers – 90% of whom are male – earn an average of £31,857 per week, according to the RCN’s analysis of figures from the 2006 Labour Force Survey.
Beverly Malone, RCN general secretary, said: “I am concerned that the pay gap is a sign of how the female-dominated profession of nursing is valued less than the more male-dominated profession of policing.”
This sexism is inherent in society and manifests itself in political decisions relating to public sector salaries, the RCN insisted.
The union is understood to want a pay rise of at least 4%, but the government believes the deal should be closer to 1.5%.
“In real terms, the government’s suggestion of a limit of 1.5% would amount to a pay cut of 2.1% at a time when prices for travel, rent and mortgages are rising,” said Malone.
The RCN also told the pay review body that 68% of the 500 members it surveyed had taken a second job to supplement their earnings.
Roughly one in four of all nurses has taken on agency work alongside their full-time job, according to the RCN.
Average annual salary by profession
Nursing auxiliary/assistant £13,782
Nurses and midwives £21,332
Teacher – primary £27,194
Teacher – secondary £30,539
Police – sergeant and below £31,857
Police – inspector and above £51,058
Source: RCN analysis of Labour Force Survey