UK: Gender Pay Gap Means Women Work For Free For 67 Days A Year

Last Updated: 6 April 2018
Article by Jennifer Millins

New analysis by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has found the average woman has to wait more than two months of the calendar year before she starts to get paid, compared to the average man. It unveiled that, in some industries, where the gender pay gap is even bigger, 'women work for free for even longer and have to wait until April or even May for their Women's Pay Day'. In its report, published to coincide with International Women's Day, the trade union body called on the government to require employers to carry out pay audits and produce action plans to close the gap in their workplace. Rebecca Tuck, barrister at Old Square Chambers, says better education is needed 'at management level to understand how every decision they make can impact the pay gap', while Ruth Harriett Kennedy, barrister at 2 Temple Gardens, explains that part of the difficulty with the disparity 'is working out who the proper male comparator is'. Meanwhile, Esther Langdon, barrister at Vedder Price and Jennifer Millins, partner at Mishcon de Reya believe there is no one size fits all solution, 'and imposing a particular approach on employers is unlikely to be the most effective way to narrow the gender pay gap across society'.

The current gender pay gap for full-time and part-time employees stands at 18.4%. This pay gap means that women effectively work for free for the first 67 days of the year, until they begin to get paid on Women's Pay Day today.

Langdon believes if the pay gap is to be closed, there needs to be a much greater understanding within organisations of what it actually is. She says 'there seems to be a great deal of confusion between what the pay gap figures actually mean and how it differs from equal pay and also sex discrimination issues. I feel there needs to be effective education and training within organisations to dispel confusion'.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady says companies publishing information on their gender pay gaps is a small step in the right direction 'but it's nowhere near enough, women in the UK will only start to get paid properly when we have better-paid part-time and flexible jobs. And higher wages in key sectors like social care'. Tuck agrees, stating that any plans to close the gender pay gap must ensure not only that 'organisations are in fact complying with the equal pay obligations which have been in force since 1975, but that women are not only recruited within organisations but also achieve progression through the ranks'.

The TUC also added that in the education sector, the gap was 26.5%-therefore the average female worker in the sector has to wait until 7 April before earning the same as the average male worker. In the finance and insurance sector, the gap is 35.6%, meaning the equivalent date is 10 May.

Harriett Kennedy asks whether women who work in retail stores say that their work is of equal value to their male colleagues working in distribution centres? She says 'at the moment, the answer appears to be yes. Pay audits won't solve some of these more difficult issues but they will assist in ensuring transparency and accountability'.

This is supported by Millins, who continues that women outnumber men in positions with lower salaries and little chance of promotion. She says 'men and women are segregated between occupations and industries-those where women predominate pay less, often stereotypical assumptions about girls and boys jobs start in childhood and affect choices later in life'.

Source: Press release: Women in Innovation-New support announced

Originally published in LNB News

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