The 2nd November was Equal Pay Day.
This day was chosen because the current difference between men and women’s pay when they are working full time is 16.4%, the equivalent of men being paid for a full year of work and women working for free after the 2nd November.
In Britain we have one of the widest pay gaps in Europe, and research from the Chartered Management Institute [CMI] suggests that pay equality will not be achieved until 2067
These startling statistics beg the question why such a pay gap exists, 40 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed.
Well there are a number of reasons;
- Both direct and indirect discrimination still occurs in the workplace. It is estimated that about 30,000 women lose their jobs each year because of pregnancy.
- There is still a lack of flexibility in the workplace. Long and inflexible hours often do not fit in with the caring duties women are still primarily responsible for. Limited paternity leave also makes it difficult for men to share equally in child care.
- Gender norms tend to mean men and women are led into different types of work. ‘Women’s work’ – such as child care, cleaning and catering – come with little social standing and accordingly low pay.
One of the reasons it is so difficult for women to challenge unfair pay is the high level of secrecy many people attach to their pay packets.
British people in particular can be a bit funny about their pay; talking about money is not really done. But it is this shroud of secrecy that surrounds pay that makes it so easy for employers to pay women less, and so hard for women to challenge it.
This is why the 2010 Equality Act may have an important role to play in closing the pay gap. Section 78 of the Act will make pay much more transparent, so women will be able to check whether or not they are being paid the same as their male counterparts.
Evidence from countries such as Sweden, where transparency has resulted in the narrowing of pay gaps suggests that this may be the way forward.
Making pay less secretive is essential if the workplace is to ever to become an equal place.