According to the ONS (Office for National Statistics), in 2021, the gender pay gap rose from 14.9% to 15.4%. The pandemic has clearly had a part to play in the widening gap between male and female rates of pay. However, these statistics are not as simple as they may first appear. Simply put, the gender pay gap does still exist in the UK and more widely across the world, but employers and employees alike are fighting to reduce the gap and create more equality for women in the workplace.
Discrimination – it is clear that some women are paid less than men for doing the same job due to women being thought less of. Whilst this was originally a big factor in the gender pay gap as a whole, legislation and equality have done a lot to limit discrimination as a reason for women being paid less.
Competencies and skills – the skills and competencies women possess are often overlooked and undervalued. Particularly for employees in the service industry, such as cooks, cleaners or waste collection, men completing traditionally male-dominated jobs such as waste collection, street cleaners and road workers are offered bonuses and pay increases compared to women in similar roles, such as cleaners, care staff and caterers.
Stereotypes – many employers still see women as homemakers. Those who will at some point leave to have a baby and return with reduced hours or less commitment to the role than before. It is for this reason that men are offered higher-ranking positions than women.
Promotion – women, are often seen as less managerial or competent than men and are therefore often overlooked for a promotion in favour of men.
Job types – traditionally, men and women still work in different types of jobs. For this reason, work in varying industries is perceived to be of different values. For example, education is still a female-dominated industry, whereas research and development is a male-dominated workplace. Female-dominated industries tend to have a lower pay scale than other industries.
Household labour – As domestic duties are still not commonly equally shared between men and women, females are often left to run a household and care for the elderly, sick and children of the home. They are perceived as having less time to devote to their careers than men.
In the UK, females have historically been paid less than males for completing similar or the same roles. Whilst this is a historic issue, the struggle for equal pay did not hit mainstream media until the 1960s. During WW1, whilst men were deployed to the front line, women took up the mantle of completing men’s roles whilst they were away – however they were expected to do the same roles for less money. This issue was raised several times, and eventually, a bonus pay was awarded to women in some of these positions.
The issue of equal pay was raised throughout the 19th century as women were continually expected to complete the traditional job of a man without the same pay structure, and thanks to campaigning, the support of trade unions and various women’s organisations, the Equal Pay Act was published in 1970. This legislation made it clear that men and women were entitled to equal pay and terms of employment. But still, we see the gender pay gap as an issue today.
In 2010, the Equality Act was passed, and this took over the Equal Pay Act. The terms are still the same, men and women if completing the same job if the work rate is equivalent or of equal value, are entitled to equal pay and conditions. However, it is often very difficult to prove that these positions exist.
It is important to note that much has been done to reduce the gender pay gap, and work is still being carried out today to stop employers from trying to get around the legislation within the Equality Act 2010. The government are taking action on the gender pay gap in a number of ways to try and reduce the gap between male and female employees and make the workplace a fair place for all. This includes requiring large employers to publish their gender pay and bonus gap data, offering 30 hours of childcare for working families and extending the right to flexible working for all employees to boost shared parental leave.
For those employees who believe they are facing discrimination in the workplace because of a gender pay gap, it can be a big challenge to find the information required to prove that discrimination has taken place. Employees need to know firsthand that their counterparts are being paid more, and this in itself is a challenge as many employees are very secretive about their pay scale, promoted by employers who often make it a misconduct event to discuss your pay scales with other employees. These employees also need to prove that their roles are similar to or the same as their counterparts which can also be difficult.
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If you know you are facing discrimination in the workplace due to a gender pay gap, you may be struggling to know what to do about taking this forward and fighting for equal pay. Catherine Herries-Smith is your local employment solicitor, working with both employers and employees over the last 25 years to make the workplace an equal and sustainable place to be. If you would like more information on how to deal with your workplace issues or you need to discuss your case with a qualified and experienced solicitor, get in touch with us today for more information.
Address:Catherine Herries-Smith SolicitorJubilee House, Globe Park, Third Ave, Marlow SL7 1EY