Yay, it’s Equal Pay Day 2018.

The Fawcett Society, YESS Law and Carrie Grace announce the launch of a new Equal Pay Advice Service and we are here for it.

 
 Image: Susie Allnut

Image: Susie Allnut

 

"The fight for equal pay often pits a lone woman against a very powerful employer. Without great legal advice, I would have struggled to get through my own equal pay ordeal. Many women in other workplaces have since told me about their feelings of loneliness and helplessness in confronting pay discrimination. I feel particularly concerned about low paid women who may not be able to afford legal advice, and I hope support from our new Equal Pay Advice Service will help give them the confidence to pursue their rights.” - Carrie Gracie.



 

Tomorrow, Friday November 10, is Equal Pay Day 2018, the day in the year when women effectively start to work for free. Think that sounds sucky? Well, it is.

Despite the Equal Pay Act being in place since 1970, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 217 years to close the gender pay gap. Today, The Fawcett Society together with employment law charity YESS Law and former BBC China Editor Carrie Grace, announced the launch of a new Equal Pay Advice Service. Here’s what you need to know.


What exactly is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between the average earnings of men and women across the whole labour market (across employment in the whole of the UK). Statistics reveal that women, on average, earn 9.1% less than men. This differs widely from sector to sector (for example, in April it was revealed that nine out of ten public sector employers pay men more than women), explaining why you may feel that this doesn’t apply to you, or isn’t really a thing, if you’re lucky enough to work in a sector that pays on par with your male counterparts. Be assured, the gender pay gap is real, and it’s holding women back.

Unsurprisingly, women in marginalised and minority groups are most likely to receive low pay – Fawcett Society research has found that Bangladeshi and Pakistani women experience a 26% pay gap compared to White British men, with Black African women earning 19.6% less. Older women are also disproportionately affected, with women over 50 experiencing an 18.6% pay gap.

 

What are the causes of the gender pay gap?

There are many, many reasons for the gender pay gap. The highest paid sectors are male-dominated, which, we’re guessing, isn’t really news to you. This continues to be a fact despite our very best efforts in girl-bossery; studies show that women make up 47% of the workforce, but only 35% of managers, directors and senior officials.

More women than men tend to work part-time, shutting down wage progression. It’s a fact that women, rather than men, are more likely to take time out to care for sick relatives, and of course there’s the small fact of childbirth. Division of childcare responsibilities between men and women shapes career choices and opportunities; the gender wage gap widens significantly amongst those in their late 20’s and early 30’s, with men’s wages growing rapidly at this point in their lives, while women’s wages plateau (cheers). The arrival of children accounts for a wage gap of around 10%.

New research from The Fawcett Society tells of a persistent culture of pay secrecy in UK workplaces allowing pay discrimination to thrive, with six out of ten (61%) workers saying they would be uncomfortable asking a colleague how much they earn. 60% of workers are unaware that they have a legal right to have conversations with colleagues about pay if they think they are being discriminated against because of their gender, and 30% of workers surveyed believe their contracts ban people from talking to each other about pay, despite this being legally unenforceable.


What is the Equal Pay Advice Service?

The Fawcett Society have teamed up with employment law charity YESS Law and former BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie to launch a new Equal Pay Advice Service, funded by an Equal Pay Fund.

Carrie Gracie resigned from her post earlier this year following a lengthy dispute over equal pay after learning that two male international editors earned ‘at least 50% more’ than their two female counterparts. In June, the BBC apologized for underpaying her and issued back pay of £361k, which Gracie has donated in full to The Fawcett Society, kickstarting the Equal Pay Fund and proving that she’s a brilliant, badass feminist who places the interests of other women above her own.

Gracie said: “The fight for equal pay often pits a lone woman against a very powerful employer. Without the support of other BBC Women and without great legal advice, I would have struggled to get through my own equal pay ordeal. Many women in other workplaces have since told me about their feelings of loneliness and helplessness in confronting pay discrimination. I feel particularly concerned about low paid women who may not be able to afford legal advice, and I hope support from our new Equal Pay Advice Service will help give them the confidence to pursue their rights.”

The service will be targeted at those on low incomes without access to legal advice, enabling them to resolve the situation with their employer. 


How can we campaign for equal pay?

The Women’s Equality Party lay out their policies on Equal Pay on their website, showing just how complex the problem is culturally and how much is still to be done. They say that the fight begins in education; we must work to ensure that schools are promoting role models that challenge gender stereotypes and offer gender-neutral careers guidance. We must also push for incentives that make childcare more affordable and put pressure on the government to introduce shared parental leave with equal maternity and paternity allowance. We must also drastically change workplace cultures that do not equally value the work of women over 50.

In April, a cross party group of MP’s led by Labour MP for Walthamstow Stella Creasy launched the #PayMeToo campaign, urging women to hold their employers to account, equipping them with the information they need to take action (incidentally, Creasy’s article here for The Guardian details some shocking real life examples of companies in the UK who aren’t paying equally… COUGH - Ryanair). Head to their site to take the #paymetoo survey – all submissions remain anonymous and sharing your experience will inform MP’s debates in parliament.

Finally, Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, suggests that we should talk, share and donate: “This Equal Pay Day we are asking you to talk about pay at work, share news about the Fund with #GetEqual on #EqualPayDay and donate to support via our GoFundMe page (gofundme.com/equalpaynow). With your help, we can ensure many more women have access to justice and get equal pay.”

And what woman in her right mind doesn’t want that?!


Written by Charlotte Ruth.
Instagram: @charberto