Gender Pay Gap: What Are Your Rights?

These are the steps you can take to address the gender pay gap at work.

Friday 10 November is Equal Pay Day - but despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970, women continue to earn less than men in Britain today.

Campaigners claim that the current gender pay gap means women effectively stop earning relative to men on this day and “work for free” for the rest of the year.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of all men and women in a workforce, expressed relative to men’s earnings.

In Britain, the average woman working full-time earns 9.4 per cent less than a man per hour. With part-timers included, the gap widens to 18.1 per cent.

According to the Fawcett Society, which lobbies for women’s rights, if change continues at the same rate as that seen in the last five years, it will take another 100 years before the figure is brought down to 0 per cent.

Is it getting worse?

Figures show the gap is wider for women in their 50s, at 18.6%, but has also significantly grown among women in their 20s – from 1.1% in 2011 to 5.5% this year.

The gap is highest in London (20.7%), followed by the south east at 16.3%. It is lowest in Wales, at 8.3%, and the north east at 10.2%, and higher in the private sector than the public sector.

Women are also almost twice as likely to receive the lowest pay – with 221,000 women earning less than the statutory minimum wage - 100,000 more women than men.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said: “The pay gap is widest for older women as it grows over our working lives but we are now seeing a widening of the pay gap for younger women too, which suggests we are going backwards, and that is extremely worrying.”

An Australian study last year found men and women ask for pay increases at the same rate - but that women receive them less.

Isn’t it the same as equal pay?

No, equal pay means men and women in the same employment, performing equal work must receive equal pay, as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

How can I find out if I am being paid less?

Gender pay gap reporting legislation came into effect from 2017 and means all employers with 250 employees or more must publish their gender pay gap data annually.

Organisations of less than 250 employees can publish and report voluntarily – but they are not obliged to do so.

The whole workforce gender pay gap is 18.1 per cent. The figure is wider than the full-time employee pay gap as it includes the two-fifths of female employees who work part-time
The whole workforce gender pay gap is 18.1 per cent. The figure is wider than the full-time employee pay gap as it includes the two-fifths of female employees who work part-time
PA Wire/PA Images

Alternatively, employers cannot prevent employees from talking about rates of pay if they are only trying to establish if they are being paid fairly. The Fawcett Society suggests starting a conversation about pay with colleagues at work and specifically asking male colleagues what they earn.

Anthony Sakrouge, an employment law solicitor with Russell-Cooke Solicitors told HuffPost UK: “The best thing to do is to request the information about other people who are doing equivalent work from the employer.

“Usually the letter or email goes something like ‘I feel I may be being paid less than a male comparator and I’d like information about the following things.’ It won’t always be particularly simple in that there will sometimes be distinguishing features between two roles that look on the face of it to be pretty similar, so you have to be comparing like for like.”

What can I do if I am?

Sakrouge recommends starting with informal discussions with your employer. He said: “If someone suspects they are being paid less than someone who is doing the same or similar job or work of equal value, the best thing is to complain about it initially and that can be informal to begin with. The next step is usually a formal grievance and thereafter if that doesn’t work, they can also issue a claim.”

If the problem is not resolved informally or through the formal grievance procedure, an employee may complain to an employment tribunal under the Equality Act 2010 while still working in the job, or up to six months after leaving the employment.

From 1 October 2014 employers who lose equal pay claims could be forced to conduct an equal pay audit and publish the results.


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