Despite years of campaigning and even legislation it seems that many businesses are still ignoring the rights of women to have equal pay for work of equal value.
Tomorrow, April 4, marks the deadline for the UK Government’s legal requirement for businesses and public sector organisations employing more than 250 people to publish their gender pay rates.
As of April 1, approximately 7,000 of the estimated 9,000 businesses and organisations required to do so had complied and the results so far have made depressing reading.
According to the ONS, the median pay gap between men and women revealed so far is 18.4% in favour of men and the mean (average) gap is 17.4%. The median gap, based on the difference between those employees in the middle of the range, is thought to be more accurate because the mean can be skewed by a small proportion of very highly paid employees.
The Equal Pay Act 1970 prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment and was replaced in 2010 by the Equality Act.
Yet it seems that many employers have continued to consistently ignore the law or found ways to circumvent it.
According to the ONS top of the list for ignoring equal pay are in businesses in the Finance and Insurance, Power, Education, Professional and Academic, Manufacturing and Communications sectors.
Perhaps given greater impetus by the #MeToo movement following the revelations of the Harvey Weinstein and other similar scandals, this may be a moment where the situation can no longer be ignored. High profile voices, such as the resignation of the BBC’s China correspondent Carrie Gracie in protest against her own pay disparity compared with male colleagues, have also put the situation under the spotlight.
Equal pay is about respect and valuing employees
Any number of excuses will be put forward for the disparity, such as the effect on career progression of women taking time out for pregnancy or the preponderance of women in relatively low-skilled or part time work.
However, as I have argued many times, crucial to a successful business is showing respect for employees.
There is plenty of evidence that those who feel valued, who are consulted about business developments or who are given opportunities for further training to improve their skills and progress their careers can make all the difference to productivity and to a business achieving its goals.
It makes no sense at all, especially in times of near-full employment, for a business to ignore or undervalue half the potential pool of recruits, i.e. women, who could be available.
Perhaps, 100 years after the birth of the suffragist movement began, we have finally reached a tipping point where there will be some real action on equal pay for work of equal value.