This year, "Equal Pay Day" conspicuously fell
on 10 November 2016. In case you missed it (amidst the hullabaloo
of a shock US election result perhaps) Equal Pay Day is the day
that women could effectively work for free until the end of the
year as a consequence of earning 13.9% less on average than
In 2015, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, declared that
the government would "end the gender pay gap in a
generation". This announcement is nothing but ambitious. On
current trends, it will take another 62 years to eradicate. The
disparity in pay between men and women has a number of causes,
however, it is generally accepted that childcare responsibilities
discrimination in the workplace due to pregnancy or maternity
leave are among the most prevalent. Women often take steps to put
their careers on hold to look after children or search for
part-time work. Women also face challenges when attempting to
return to work after giving birth, either by being manoeuvred out
of their jobs or finding themselves further away from promotion
opportunities because they have been out of the business for a
period of time. Those who seek flexible or part-time working
arrangements often find themselves disadvantaged compared with
their male counterparts who can work full-time; a recent study by Timewise found that 6% of
roles with a wage of £20,000+ were available with flexible
working arrangements, contrasted to just 2% of jobs with a salary
What is the law?
The Equality Act 2010 (the "EqA") prohibits
differences in pay between men and women who carry out work of a
similar kind. In a growing effort to tackle the pay gap the
government is introducing mandatory pay gap reporting for large
companies. This means that employers with 250 or more employees
will be required to publish gender pay gaps across their
businesses. In addition, in order to level the playing field on
childcare commitments, Shared Parental Leave is a relatively new
introduction to employment rights, allowing parents to share nearly
a year of leave from work.
The first mandatory gender pay gap reports will be due by April
2018 by virtue of the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap
Information) Regulations 2016.
The recent attacks on the gender pay gap have been easily
critiqued as not being bullish enough. For instance, might larger
employers take more active steps to comply with the rules if there
were penalties for those who misreport or don't comply? Indeed,
what about a woman who has the misfortune to work for an employer
with less than 250 employees. It appears, for now at least, she
will find herself marginalised. The EqA does make secrecy clauses
in employment contracts unenforceable when an employee seeks a
disclosure on an equal pay concern, so if a woman feels that she is
paid less than a man in a similar role she has the right to
disclosure from her employer. Failing which she can raise a formal
grievance if unsatisfied with her employer's response.
Readers should note that the introduction of employment tribunal
fees in 2013 has seen a stark reduction of discrimination claims
related to equal pay. The Ministry of Justice is undertaking a
review of tribunal fees and if they conclude that reform is
necessary, it is likely that the fees could be removed or
substantially reduced. Women will then have more access to justice
and their employers will not have a safe haven of knowing many of
their employees will be priced out of taking action.
Employers who are progressive in combating gender disparity
within the workforce stand to benefit, not only in a legal sense
(by not opening themselves up to potential employment claims) but
from a business perspective with the competitive advantage of more
diverse teams and female leaders.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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