Article by Dr Samantha Evans
Unequal pay remains a persistent problem across the globe, including in the UK with only 11% of women working for an employer that pays them equally or better. More than three out of four UK companies pay their male staff more than their female staff and in nine out of seventeen sectors in the economy, men earn 10%, or more, on average than women. By comparison, 93% of men work for a company that pays them equally or better than women.
By chance, the first International Equal Pay Day took place in 2020 as the economic fallout of the Covid-19 pandemic began to reveal that women have been disproportionately disadvantaged during the pandemic, especially in developing countries and vulnerable sectors. This makes the challenge of equal pay even more critical as increasing evidence shows that women have shouldered the burden of childcare with the closure of schools and nurseries. As such, they have been accommodating greater overall workloads through the demands of their paid and unpaid work due to the gendered norms pervasive in a patriarchal society. Moreover, the majority of women have been doing all this while being under-compensated in pay in comparison to their male colleagues.
Fifty years have passed since the UK’s Equal Pay Act was passed, making equal pay feel very much like an old issue. Yet, without equal pay how can an organisation claim to be an equal opportunities employer and non-discriminatory? Equal pay represents a fundamental benchmark as a basic civil and employment right for women. Only when we achieve equal pay, can organisations truly pronounce themselves equal opportunity employers. What can organisations do to reach this goal of equal pay? Essentially, they must turn their attention more urgently to supporting the causes of gender inequality and unequal pay in areas of HR policy. These areas include the penalty of motherhood in career progression, tackling inherent bias and discrimination in their workplaces, providing better paternity rights for fathers, supporting their female employees through the menopause and so much more. Without more movement in these areas equal pay will remain just an ideology.
Dr Samantha Evans is a lecturer in Human Resource Management (HRM) and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at Kent Business School. Dr Evans is a Chartered Member of the CIPD, Chartered Management Institute and a member of the British Universities Industrial Relations Association.
Dr Evans has worked on research examining inequality in the workplace, line managers and human resource management, retail trade unions, and employee well-being. Her research has been published in journals such as: Work, Employment and Society, The International Journal of Human Resource Management; Management Learning; Employee Relations & Personnel Review. Her current research interests are focused on social class inequalities and employee well-being, examining the impact of social class on individual experiences of work, work-life balance, equality and well-being.