Today is ‘Equal Pay Day’, marking the day in the year when women in the UK begin working for free.
Confused? Well due to the total difference in average salaries earned by women and men in the UK, women effectively stop getting paid on November 11.
How can this be true, you may be thinking, isn’t equal pay a battle that was fought and won in 1970 with the introduction of the Equal Pay Act?
The Equal Pay Act
Legislation in the UK does indeed state that for equal work and work of equal value, women have the right to equal pay. However there is still a marked discrepancy.
In the UK, the average female worker earns 13.9% less than a male co-worker doing the same job. That works out at 86.1 pence for every £1 a man earns, so when accumulated over a year, it means that women are basically working for free for the last 50 days of the year.
The average hourly rate of pay for a woman in full time employment is £12.82 whereas men receive £14.16 according to an Office for National Statistics 2016 survey.
For women in professional roles, the average full time salary is £30,612 in comparison to £39,136 for her male counterpart according to a survey by the Chartered Management Institute. Calculated over an average full time working week, these figures mean that women are working unpaid for over one and a half hours every day.
Equal Pay For Equal Work?
Bearing in mind the decades of struggle and campaigning for this cause, the implementation of The Equal Pay Act and a widening societal pressure to increase equality in the workplace, it seems absurd that women are still suffering discrimination to this extent. Recent cases publicised in the media such as claims brought against ASDA and Reading Council show that women are still having to fight for the basic recognition of equal pay, equal rights.
Women make up 46% of the workforce yet they are more likely to be employed in low skilled and lower paid jobs than men. This is the gender pay gap, not to be confused with equal pay for men and women doing the same role, but the fact that a proportionately higher percentage of men occupy highly paid skilled positions than women.
David Cameron’s government made a commitment to closing the gender pay gap, the difference in hourly pay between the sexes, and although latest figures show slow improvement, it would take until 2069 to reach equivalence.
There are mounting calls today on this Equal Pay Day, to see Government honouring their pledge. New regulations are due to come into force next year which will force large employers to publish their gender pay gap in wages and bonuses and make that data public by 2018 in a bid to name and shame businesses who do not pay male and female employees equally for the same job.
Much effort also needs to be directed into changing attitudes too. It’s an all too common pattern to see organisations with men at the top and women concentrated at the bottom. It needs to be easier for women to progress, workplace bias and discrimination must be tackled and eradicated.
Progress requires political will and a conscious, focussed effort to drive change. It is a responsibility of all society to guard against the risk of backward movement, of losing rights which were so bravely fought for.