Equal Pay – What is it?
All employers in the UK have a legal obligation to ensure that men and women receive equal pay for performing equal work. Failure to do so can give rise to equal pay and discrimination claims.
Equal Pay Day
In a recent report The Fawcett Society declared 20 November 2022 to be "Equal Pay Day". It is from this day forward until the end of the year that women essentially work for free as they are still on average being paid less than men.
The Fawcett Society are a leading charity who campaign for general and equality rights for women in the workplace. Within the same report they have also found that women, on average, take home £564 less per month than men in 2022. This has increased from £536 in 2021.
Whilst there are numerous factors which may impact the pay gap, this recent increase in the pay gap recorded in 2021 and 2022 is largely attributed to COVID-19.
COVID-19 is reported to have had an adverse effect on women in the workplace. This all relates back to historical equality issues with women more likely to be in part-time work, more likely to work in sectors such as hospitality and retail and more likely to take on childcare. As such when we were faced with lockdown, financial insecurity, furlough, and school closures, it was women who were disproportionately affected and had to juggle responsibilities.
We can look forward with a degree of hope that COVID-19 may also begin to improve the pay gap with more employers being prepared to consider flexible working and flexible hiring for all employees which may help bring balance to areas such as childcare arrangements.
The CEO of the Fawcett Society, Jemima Olchawski said:
"It is deeply disappointing that the gender pay gap has barely shifted in the past few years, especially given the cost of living crisis is hitting women the hardest and forcing them to make impossible choices. Other data indicates that the pay gap may be even worse for women of colour – though we still don't know the full picture.
"We need more urgent action now, to put women's equality at the heart of our economic recovery. The Government should make flexible work the default with a requirement for jobs to be advertised as flexible upfront, to enable more women to work. We need mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting and action plans, and we need employers to stop asking discriminatory salary history questions. Women can't afford to wait any longer for the gap to close."
What can employers do?
Employers are at the forefront of the equal pay battle and can look to accelerate the closing of the gender pay gap.
Steps taken could include:
- Review of family friendly policies;
- Ensuring staff are suitably trained in equal pay awareness;
- Treat flexible working as a gender neutral policy;
- Operate in a transparent manner in respect of salaries in recruitment and promotions;
- Not to ask salary history questions as this can prevent the closing of the gap through continuing historical practices;
- Carry out equal pay audits.
In addition to the above steps employer's with over 250 employees are required to report on the gender pay gap and publish their gender pay gap figures annually. This is a step that all employers could look to take regardless of their number of employees to bring about a greater degree of transparency and proactively take part in reducing the gender pay gap.
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