10 November is Equal Pay Day – championed by the Fawcett Society – seems like an eminently sensible, worthy thing. It is surely right that men and women should be paid the same the same job isn’t it? Isn’t that what the Equal Pay Act, and “Made in Dagenham” was all about?
But as the Act/strike was just about 50 years ago, surely we must be nearly there on equal pay by now? So Equal Pay Day is a celebration, yes? And now there is an obligation on companies to publish a Gender Pay Audit too, so there’s no way you can get away with unequal pay, even if you were tempted to try to.
Ok – I’m playing Angel’s Advocate here, I know. Equal Pay Day is, shockingly, the day after which women do not get paid – if you compare them against men doing work of the same weight. That is the extent of the gender pay gap in 2017 Britain: 7 weeks. 51 days to be precise. How wrong is that?
Well, at least those new Pay Audits may help restart the trend to gender pay equality? Don’t count on it. In the BBC, female broadcasters are having to go to Tribunal (or threaten to do so) to get their employer to address pay gaps that are over 100% in some cases. In the public service, austerity-linked pay restraint/freezes perpetuate unequal pay, with union-sponsored legal cases being required to expose the illegality of this.
And if companies default on reporting on gender pay by next April, enforcement comes from the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Except the EHRC’s budget has been slashed. A watchdog with its teeth surgically removed, you might say.
But it would also be wrong to see the requirement to have a gender pay audit as anything close to a solution to differential pay rates. No – you can have a pay gap and equal pay. This is because the former looks at an employer’s workforce overall, whereas the latter compares two jobs of the same weight. What the audit report will give us, however, is a level of understanding and more information to enable us to challenge employers.
But there’s no doubt the pay disparity stats are both distressing and potentially depressing. No surprise, sadly, that it gets worse if you are also from the BME communities.
So that’s why we need Equal Pay Day. To remind ourselves and everyone else that how much you are paid should not depend on your gender, or race, or any other of those so-called “protected characteristics” To re-commit ourselves to making the pay gap obsolete. To remember that progress is possible.
As a white man, I think this is as much in my interests as those who, statistically, I am paid more than. A fair society is a better one in which to live. Not just because it is morally and ethically balanced, but because I think it is more productive, efficient and prosperous. Supporting Equal Pay Day is in our own interests as well as those of others.
(Photocredit: NurPhoto/Getty. There’s a great podcast exploring Equal Pay Day too – listen here)