It’s Equal Pay Day!

The Equality Bill is still – yawn – going through Parliament. And while I’m not a huge fan, the Bill does include reforms on equal pay laws, and that I support. Who wouldn’t want more money?

Seriously though, the statistics are shocking:

  • 39% of male project managers earn over £50k, but only 19% of female project managers fall into that salary band (Arras People study, Feb 2009)
  • Women working full-time earn 22.6% less than men (EHRC)
  • The average gender pay gap in Europe is 14.5%, with the UK trailing behind with a 17.1% pay gap (Fawcett Society)

And if you’ve worked hard on a project, you want to be rewarded in line with a male colleague who did an equally good job.

However, you do have to be careful with the numbers. The recent Financial Services Inquiry shows that the average gap between bonuses is 80% (EHRC .pdf (since removed)) but it looks as if it has been calculated on a ‘single-figure’ basis. And if there are more men in senior roles – and lots of women in admin and secretarial positions – it’s not surprising that the gap is so huge. However, when you look at gaps between men and women in the same grade, there are still discrepancies:

  • The financial services sector suffers from pay gaps between men and women at the same grade in 63% of cases.

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when all this stuff gets some attention, thanks to UNISON and the Fawcett Society. This year, with the Equality Bill chugging through the Houses, there is a real sense that the situation will get better. In fact, some people are arguing that the Bill doesn’t go far enough. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recommended a ban on gagging clauses, that prevent employees discussing pay. The Bill only gives protection to employees victimised for discussing pay.

The EHRC has recommended that firms treat gender equality as a business objective, increase support for workers with caring responsibilities and increase pay transparency. To increase the latter the EHRC has recommended an outright ban on clauses preventing workers discussing their pay. This goes further than the Government’s proposal, in the Equality Bill, to give protection to employees who are victimised for discussing pay.

But what it gives with one hand, it takes away with the other:  this quarter’s legal update from Kingsley Napley in conjunction with says that from April 2011 childcare vouchers will no longer be exempt from National Insurance and tax, for new joiners. OK, they are offering free childcare for 250,000 toddlers, but how far will that go?

There’s also a consultation going on about transferring 6 months of maternity leave to fathers. But only 3 months of that will be paid, at the princely sum of £123.06 per week.

I imagine that the take up of that offer won’t exactly bring us into the Scandinavian system of shared parental leave, so that means no change to the periods women spend out of the workplace – and time away from work for childcare is a major contributing factor to the gap in pay. Are we going round in circles?