Just a third of women know nobody can stop them asking male colleagues about salary if they suspect their employer is guilty of gender pay discrimination, new data reveals.
Research by campaigning women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society, who will today launch a ‘right to know’ bill in parliament to modernise equal pay laws, also underlines how wages are still mired in secrecy at most workplaces.
Only 24% reported that pay is talked about openly at work and just four in ten people knew that women’s right to equal pay for work of equal value - something enshrined in law in 1970.
Labour MP Harriet Harman and the BBC’s Carrie Gracie, who won a landmark pay discrimination case against her employer, will be among those gathering in Westminster to launch new proposals they hope the government will take up.
As it stands, an employer cannot prohibit an employee from asking a colleague what they earn if they suspect pay discrimination, but they have no legal right to demand to know the answer. The Society will place in the House of Lords a new equal pay bill that will hand women the right to know.
The bill would give women who suspect they are not getting equal pay a legal right to know from their employer what any male comparator is paid.
The charity, whose 2019 report found six in ten women either know they are paid less or are being kept in the dark, says taking such a step would give women the chance to resolve equal pay issues without having to go to court.
Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said across workplaces as diverse as supermarkets, broadcasters and councils pay discrimination is still widespread.
The Fawcett Society’s data also reveals:
- 46% of men said they would probably tell a female colleague how much they earned if she asked.
- 34% of men said they would be more likely to share their salary with a female colleague who suspected she was being paid unequally; 52% of men said this would make no difference to them.
- ·Only 8% strongly agree that people at their workplace talk openly about pay.
- 52% of women would be embarrassed to ask their male colleagues how much they earn
“Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act the law designed to address pay discrimination is still poorly understood and too often ignored,” Smethers said. “Not only are many women still paid less than men for the same job, four in ten don’t even realise they have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.
“The culture of secrecy that discourages women from talking about salaries has allowed pay discrimination to persist. Women do not have the information they need to challenge this injustice.
“Our new ‘equal pay bill’ would give women who are not being paid equally a route to get the information they need. Our research shows that 8 in 10 men and women support women being able to find out if they are paid less than a man for equal work. It’s time we gave all women the right to know.”
Baroness Margaret Prosser, who has laid the bill in the House of Lords, who was among those who campaigned for equal pay in the past, said: “Having seen the working women’s campaign for equal pay lead to victory with the Equal Pay Act 1970, I wouldn’t have dreamt that, in 2020, women would still be facing pay discrimination. But that is indeed what is still happening across the country, including at major institutions like the BBC, our councils and supermarkets.
“This new bill is vital for stopping pay discrimination – so that we are not still talking about this in another fifty years. Current rights just don’t work without transparency. I call on parliamentarians in both houses to support the proposals in this bill – it’s time to make the right to equal pay a reality for all women.”
Fawcett’s Equal Pay Bill 2020 would also, amongst other measures, extend gender pay gap reporting to companies with 100 or more employees, introduce gender pay gap reporting by ethnicity, force employers to publish action plans to tackle gender pay gaps.