Equal Pay Day: the days women work ‘for free’ grows

Equal Pay Day is two days earlier this year, signifying the decline of women's pay equity

Equal Pay Day, the date the average woman will begin working the rest of the year for free compared to a man on a full-time salary, has changed, significantly worsening women’s pay equity.

More free work days for women

Women are working for free for more days in 2021 than in 2020, with Equal Pay Day moving two days earlier in the year.

The mean gender pay gap for full-time employees is now 11.9%, which grew from 10.6% last year. As a result, Equal Pay Day 2021 is on November 18th, two days earlier than last year.

The situation is worse in Europe, with the UK’s Equal Pay Day coming eight days after women living in the European Union (EU) began effectively working for free, according to the EU commission.

The declining state of women’s pay equity this year can be explained by COVID-19 and its impact on women in the workplace, who were overrepresented in badly hit sectors like retail and hospitality. Supporters of women’s pay equity have also criticised the Government and its lack of definitive action.

The causes of declining pay equity

Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft, reacted to the news and said that the suspension of gender pay gap reporting in 2020 and its delay in 2021 has worsened the situation.

“It’s no secret that the pandemic has disproportionately affected working women, with pre-existing inequalities exacerbated in a world impacted by job losses, financial strain, and home-schooling. Yet, it is still disappointing to see that Equal Pay Day has shifted slightly earlier this year.

“The suspension and delay of the reporting requirement have impacted the final figures, and a quarter fewer employers published their pay gap data this year. While the effects of the pandemic contribute to this year’s numbers, the bigger concern is that diversity and inclusion initiatives have taken a back seat.

“Businesses must ensure equal pay initiatives are highlighted on the boardroom agenda. Employers must ensure that every worker has the opportunity to expand their role toward higher-paying positions, which includes how they address unconscious bias and facilitate professional development and mentoring.”

How employers can help

The Fawcett Society, a UK charity campaigning for gender equality, says employers should stop asking job candidates about their previous salaries. This contributes to the gender pay gap by keeping women on lower wages, with companies at risk of replicating gender pay gaps from other employers.

In their recent survey, nearly half of working adults (47%) said they had been asked about their past salaries. They also found that this significantly impacted female job-seekers and their confidence to ask for higher pay (61%). Additional findings include that more women (58%) than men ( 54%) felt that being asked about their past salary meant being offered a lower wage.

Only a quarter of the survey’s respondents said pay should be based on past salaries, compared to 80% who felt that salaries should be based on their skills and responsibilities.

Speaking to the BBC, Jemima Olchawski, Chief Executive at the Fawcett Society, said: “We’re calling on employers to make a simple change and stop asking potential employees about salary history. Evidence shows that this will help stamp out pay inequality, not only for women but for people of colour, and people with disabilities.”

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