It’s Equal Pay Day, which means from today – 14th November – women in the UK are effectively working for free until the end of the year.
Men and women should be paid the same money for the same work – a concept known as equal pay – as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Despite this, pay discrimination is still alive and well in the UK. And this is just one factor that contributes to the gender pay gap – defined as the difference in average hourly pay between women and men.
Other factors include failures to promote women in the workplace, women not entering highly-paid male-dominated industries, maternity discrimination, and the fact that women still bear the brunt of childcare, meaning they’re more likely to do part-time work.
Equal Pay Day is designed to raise awareness of the entire lot.
Campaigners use the average, full-time gross hourly gender pay gap to calculate when Equal Pay Day will fall each year. The latest ONS statistics reveal the mean gap for full-time workers is 13.1% – and the gap is even wider when part-time workers are included, at 16.2%.
Being paid less than your male coworkers – or having an inkling that you are – can be infuriating, but also demotivating. And when you factor in estimates that the gender pay gap is unlikely to close for 60 years with the current rate of progression, it’s all too easy to feel like it’s a lost battle.
Don’t let despondency roll into apathy. This Equal Pay Day, here are five things you can do if you’re sick and tired of pay discrimination:
1. Find out the facts
More than half of women across the UK either don’t know what their male colleagues earn, or believe they’re earning less than men doing the same job, according to new research by the Fawcett Society. So Gemma Rosenblatt, head of policy and campaigns at the charity, recommends finding out the facts before going in guns blazing.
“If you have the opportunity, and feel comfortable doing so, ask male colleagues what they earn,” she tells HuffPost UK. “They can let you know if you are being paid less for the same job.”
If you work for an employer with more than 250 employees, your workplace will have published data on their gender pay gap. Take a look at the figures and how they compare to similar organisations, Rosenblatt adds.
2. Seek advice
If you believe you’re being paid less than male colleagues on your level, having done your research, the next step is to seek advice. Speak to your union if you are part of one, or look for alternative advice, such as the free service run by Fawcett and YESS Law for those who earn less than £30,000 per year.
Try seeking advice within your company, too. Tristram Hooley, a professor of career education, advises connecting with other female colleagues to see if they are experiencing the same issues. “Structural problems often need collective solutions rather than merely individual ones,” he says.
And Lynn Cahillane, head of marketing at Totaljobs, adds that you have the right to ask your HR department to examine the salary data that is available to them and explain any inconsistencies to you.
3. Ask for that pay rise
Yes, it would be nice if all employers recognised hard work and paid you more for it, but realistically, if you want recognition, it’s time to go after it yourself. Cahillane says the best way to do this is to ask for a face-to-face meeting with your manager.
“Be prepared to give examples and show your worth,” she says. “Consider some of your recent achievements, the knowledge and experience you bring to your role, and why now is a suitable time for a pay rise. Demonstrate your contribution to the company for the last and next six months, whether it’s through generating revenue, applying your expertise or showing your dedication.”
Should you mention pay inequalities during this chat? No, says Cahillane. “Keep the conversation focused on winning your manager over,” she advises. “That means demonstrating your value to the company and highlighting your worth.”
After discussing your progression in person, be sure to follow up your meeting in writing, Cahillane adds. “Your boss may not be the final decision maker, so writing your case down in a clear and concise manner will help them to communicate your request to the relevant parties.”
“Demonstrate your contribution to the company for the last and next six months.”
4. Campaign for change
Get involved with charities campaigning for equal pay. The Fawcett Society, for example, is calling for a change in law to give women a “Right to Know” what a male colleague or colleagues earn if they suspect there is pay discrimination. You can sign the charity’s online petition to show your support.
Alternatively, with the election coming up, now is the time to ask the candidates in your area what they would do to improve the equal pay law, Rosenblatt says.
5. Support younger women
If you’ve managed to bag a senior position at your company, great! Use your experience to join a career mentoring programme in your industry or consider setting up a women’s support network at your workplace. Both could empower younger generations to ask for promotions or pay rises, as well as encouraging an open dialogue about policies that affect women (such as maternity leave).
If you’re early on in your career, you can still be a valuable mentor to younger women. Consider joining a programme like nationwide charity The Girls Network, who provide you with training to mentor girls of secondary school age. The charity aims to give girls the confidence and skills to meet their potential –and your efforts could help break cycles of women not choosing highly-paid industries.