ONS research has found that on average, women in the UK will earn 80 pence for every pound earned by men. So, this presents the question – if women are earning 20 per cent less than men, should they spend 20 per cent less time working than men too?
As 80 per cent of 2015 has now been and gone, from now until the end of the year, women in the UK will be working for free. Although this may seem a shocking realisation for female and male employees and employers alike, the stark reality is that the gender pay gap issue is now under more fire than ever.
Just last week, Conservative MEPs voted against resolution on disclosing the gender pay gap across the EU. The MEP’s decision, with 11 voting against resolution while three abstained, wildly contradicted David Cameron’s Conservative party speech just one day before, where he implored party members to move towards crucial pay equality.
Fuelled by these apparent contradictions between the Conservative’s home and foreign policies, the gender pay gap debate isn’t disappearing. And with the news that women only earn 80 per cent of what their male counterparts are paid, it comes as no surprise that women up-and-down the country feel like putting in 80 per cent of the effort. However, downing tools isn’t necessarily the answer.
Transparency is now the most important tool we have for inciting any kind of change, and employers should be mindful of legal boundaries when it comes to employees discussing the discrepancies between their wages.
Secrecy clauses in the workplace are now illegal, therefore employers cannot prevent their members of staff from discussing how much they get paid with each other. On top of this, there must be justification from employers for any discrepancies among wages; whether this is due to job titles, skills or hours, the need to remain completely transparent is key.
For as long as there remains a pay gap between men and women, the issue and the debate which it invites is unlikely to disappear; currently disclosure is voluntary in the Think, Act, Report initiative, but with the news that by spring 2016, businesses who employ over 250 people will be obliged to disclose gender pay gap data, we can expect any wage discrepancies to be more visible. As a result, the gender pay gap conversation will continue.
So, despite any parliamentary ruling regarding disclosure, employers must take the initiative to carefully consider all wording in their contracts and be sure to not place illegal restrictions among employees who discuss their salaries.
By Peter Mooney, Head of Consultancy at ELAS
Specialising in employment law with extensive litigation experience, Peter Mooney has become one of the most prolific consultants in the UK. Peter regularly speaks on a range of issues, including the gender pay gap, zero-hours contracts, changes to Tribunal procedure, TUPE and how absenteeism can affect business productivity.
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