Equal Pay Day: gender pay gap closes but for how long?

Equal Pay Day may be later this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic could still have an impact on equal pay progress

The amount women are paid got a little closer to that paid to male peers this year as the gender pay gap closed by 1.7%.

However, there is still a long way to go – especially considering the suspension of pay gap reporting this year, and with the second lockdown likely to hit women the hardest again

The pay disparity is highlighted by Equal Pay Day – the day of the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men in the UK.

In 2019, Equal Pay Day fell on the 14th November, but this year it fell on 20th November.

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft said: “Equal Pay Day has shifted slightly later this year, signalling progress is being made for pay equality for women. However, while the figures paint a positive picture for gender parity, they should also be taken with a pinch of salt.”

In March, the Government Equalities Office effectively suspended the pay reporting requirement for the year, and a quarter less employers responded to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE).

“Although employers have understandably shifted their focus to business survival, it’s important they don’t lose sight of their gender pay goals,” said Nowakowska “Pay gap reporting enables companies to actively recognise and work towards improving the gender pay gap, acting as a benchmark for the entire organisation.”

With research showing that mothers are more likely to leave paid work during the pandemic, the gender pay gap is at risk of widening, reversing the progress made this year; mothers who were in paid work in February are 9% more likely to not now be working.

Nowakowska said: “With women over-represented in sectors (such as the service industry) hit hardest by the pandemic – and bearing the brunt of childcare and caring responsibilities as lockdowns continue – it is more important than ever that employers stand up and address the pay gap head-on.

“Resolving the disparity in pay is complex and involves more than merely a number. Employers must ensure every employee can expand their role towards higher-paying positions. This could mean reviewing how your organisation views parental leave, addressing unconscious bias, or facilitating professional development.

“Above all, it’s about making a continued, concerted effort; meaningful change cannot occur overnight.”


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