The gender pay gap: how women are still short-changed in the UK

The gender pay gap is a major hurdle to overcome, that perseveres still in the 21st century.

Under the Equal Pay Act 1970 it is a legal requirement that men and women doing the same job are paid the same.

Although unequal pay is illegal, and has been for more than 50 years, the difference between hourly wages for men and women still persists.

Graph outlining the gender pay gap by full-time, part-time and all employees. Source: ONS

Across the UK the gender pay gap among all employees stood at 15.5% in 2020, a 1.9% decrease from the following year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). 

In 2020 the gap among full time employees in the UK fell to 7.4%, from 9.0% in 2019.

The gender pay gap is gradually decreasing over time, there has been significant reversals in the progress on this issue.

Amongst full time employees the gap fell in seven of the nine main occupation groups.

How the gender pay gap has changed by occupation. Source: ONS

In skilled trade occupations the gender pay gap is at its highest at 22.4% but declined by 1.8%

Managers, directors and senior officials saw the biggest increase at 2.0, the gap is one of the highest at 15.9%.

Publishing the gap allows employees to monitor the inequalities and to develop action plans to tackle the issue.

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said: “Data is an important and useful starting point, but needs to be backed up by meaningful action to address the barriers holding women back in the workplace.

“Specific, time-bound action plans can not only help to create an environment where female employees can flourish but also enhance the organisation’s reputation by demonstrating to employees, customers and shareholders a commitment to improving working practices.

“That is why we have repeatedly called for the Government to make it mandatory for employers to publish action plans with specific targets and deadlines alongside their pay gap data.”

The EHRC were responsible for ensuring businesses produce their pay gap figures, as well as promoting and upholding equality and human right ideals across England, Wales and Scotland.

The difference in pay significantly reduces women’s lifetime earnings, discriminating them from opportunities and challenges.

The Equality Act came into force in April 2017, legally requiring companies with more than 250 employees to produce their gender pay gap figures at the end of each financial year. 

Companies that fail to disclose the average pay for men and women, or have a large gap, communicates that their organisations are neither fair nor progressive.

The act provides access to records on how the gap is progressing and where the startling inequalities still exist.

However this will not happen in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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