From education to employment

“We are going backwards” warns leading charity as pay gap widens for younger women

It’s Equal Pay Day – Friday 10th November – the day in the year when women start to work for free.  The date has not shifted in the calendar for the past 3 years, demonstrating the lack of progress there has been in closing the pay gap.

This year, leading campaigning charity the Fawcett Society, has sounded a stark warning that the pay gap is actually widening for some groups of women and it will now take 100 years to close it, based on the current rate of change.

The Fawcett Society is calling on everyone to mark the day by making a #paygappledge to take action to close the pay gap. Government, employers and each of us can and must do something today to address this stark inequality in our workplaces and to speed up change. 

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.

“At a time when we are breaking the taboo of talking about sexual harassment in the workplace we need to wake up to the fact that a culture which tolerates or even fosters sexual harassment isn’t going to pay women properly either, and we know that younger women are particularly likely to experience harassment.”

The charity also warns:

  • Progress has stalled in closing the pay gap. It stands at 14.1% now – the same as it was in 2015 and 2016.
  • If the gap closes at the rate it has over the last 5 years it won’t reach 0% until 2117.
  • At 18.6% the gap is wider for women in their 50s, but has significantly grown amongst 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%. But while it is falling in London and the South East, by over 3 percentage points since 2011, it has risen in the North East by 1.5 percentage points.
  • The gap is higher in the private sector, at 17.1% – but it has fallen by 4.3 percentage points since 2011. In the public sector it has stayed flat at just above 14%. Fawcett research published earlier this year found that the mean aggregate pay gap for Pakistani and Bangladeshi women is 26% and for black African women it is 24%.
  • Women are almost twice as likely (1.8 times more 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 said:

“Employers with 250 staff or more need to review their pay systems and publish their gender pay gaps, with a clear action plan in place to close it.

“All employers need to take a long hard look at their workplace culture.  Discrimination and sexual harassment can be hidden and more common than they think.  Proactive steps are needed to root it out and give women confidence to report it.

“Government should require employers to make every job a flexible working job, unless there is a good business reason not to.  We also want to see a longer, more generous period of paid leave for fathers. This will help to address the unequal impact of caring roles which is one of the key drivers of the gap.

“For the lowest paid we need to see the Real Living Wage adopted as the minimum wage in all our workplaces. A growing number of women are trapped in the lowest paid work.

Employers, employees and public figures are being urged to make their #paygappledge and post a picture of it online. Action employees can take could include:

  • Ask what your colleagues earn – break the taboo of talking about pay as pay secrecy is a great cover for pay inequality
  • Ask your employer if they are aware of gender pay gap reporting and when they will publish their data. Ask to see their action plan.
  • Find out what the process is for reporting sexual harassment in your workplace. If you are experiencing harassment and feel able to do so take the first step and report it.

To calculate the gender pay gap the Fawcett Society uses the ONS mean average full-time pay gap of 14.1%. Others often cite the median average which currently stands at 9.1% for full time workers, and has decreased by only 0.4 percentage points in the last five years. It will take 113 years to close the gap by that measure, on current progress.

By April next year, large employers with over 250 employees will have to publish their own gender pay gap data. Currently only 215 out of the 9,000+ employers that the government estimates will need to publish have submitted their data.

80% of those who have published their figures have a gender pay gap, and 28% have a gap larger than the national average (using the ‘all employees’ mean average of 17.4%, rather than Fawcett’s preferred figure of the mean full-time pay gap).

About The Fawcett Society: The UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights at work, at home and in public life. Our vision is a society in which the choices you can make and the control you have over your life are no longer determined by your gender.

Download the Pay Gap Pledge card here.

See suggestions for pledges for policymakers, employers and individuals here.

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