As part of my continuing look at the gender pay gap, here is a sponsored article from employment law specialists Nationwide Employment Lawyers , who share an overview of the reasons behind the UK gender pay gap and the recently announced plans to challenge it.
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For years, the imbalance of pay between men and women has been a serious, but often ignored, employment issue. Finding ways to correct the difference is a discussion which encompasses wider forms of the employment disadvantage facing women.
The history of the gender pay gap
In 1970, the Equal Pay Act was legislated so that women would receive equivalent pay to men on condition that they perform the same job for the same employer. However, several loopholes have allowed employers to avoid accusations of unequal payment. This includes legal requirements that allow an employer’s payroll to be the only acceptable source of information for supporting claims of unfair payment.
This same data is also considered the only viable means of determining whether certain kinds of work was performed by women at all, allowing employers to allege that assistance from male employees has occurred, thus rendering female workers’ claims void.
Needless to say, access to such data has resulted in employers generally showing greater concern for their own interests, often refusing to reveal certain information in accordance with their legal rights. Furthermore, employers were (until recently) under no obligation to monitor the difference in pay between male and female employees, effectively allowing them to ignore the possibility of equal pay being denied to workers.
Pay discrimination can be obvious if men are directly paid less than women without excuse, but underpayment is often hidden through crafty guises like different job titles and/or descriptions for female employees.
Although women can bring their concerns before an employment tribunal, the tribunal payment change of 2013, which now calls for all claimants to shoulder the majority of fees themselves, has led to a decrease in such cases due to financial concerns. This has certainly led to many women being failed by the UK legal system.
How the pay gap is recorded
The pay gap is often dismissed as exaggerated or even a fabrication, but research by the Quarterly Reports of tribunal records found that 12% of all tribunal cases launched between 2012/13 involved claims of unequal pay, wholly nullifying any notion of falsehood.
Gender pay gap statistics are generated through comparisons of the opposing average hourly rates between male and female employees. The national population and all UK employment sectors are taken into account when determining this figure.
One common excuse for the pay gap is that greater numbers of women are working part-time, which makes for lower overall female earnings. However, this ignores the fact that official figures monitored by the Office for National Statistics do not take into account part-time wages when recording results for the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings. These figures focus solely on the mean average full-time wage between genders, which takes into account the pay of higher earning employees to generate an accurate and fair overall sum.
Negative affects on women
Recent UK studies reveal that the pay gap harms women by affecting their lives in various ways:
- Women receive less benefit from time and money spent on their education as they ultimately receive fewer financial benefits, despite performing roles equal to men;
- Mothers are affected by the pay gap as less finances are available to support children, especially single mothers or those without a partner in employment. The result of this can be physical and/or mental exhaustion due to longer hours being required to compensate;
- Maternity and pregnancy discrimination is interwoven with the pay gap, as the level of full-time pay for maternity leave is being increasingly reduced. This has been defended on the grounds that it seeks to support women wanting less maternity leave, but it is increasingly seen as being forced on all women. This is a huge contrast to men who can now receive financial support for undertaking shared parental duties.
One area of concern is the effect of occupational segregation, which involves unfair treatment of gender based roles. Men are paid greater amounts in jobs where they mostly work with other men, while women are paid less in roles where they work mostly alongside other women.
The single gender assessment of certain kinds of work is known as horizontal segregation. Stereotypical ‘horizontal’ roles for women include manual catering or cleaning work, and basic cashier and retail roles. This restricts female achievement and contributes to archaic attitudes to gender that regard female roles as somehow less valuable than men’s.
The opposite of this is vertical segregation where women work in positions alongside men – but find opportunities for reaching greater positions restricted, due to gender related constraints causing them to be under-represented in high-paying occupations, adding to pay-gap statistics. It is necessary to abolish attitudes associated with both forms of occupational segregation in the quest to make pay equal.
Steps to solving the gender pay gap
One way UK employment law is helping reduce the pay gap is by altering the law: as of 26th March 2016, businesses with a staff of 250+ employees will have to release information on the pay and bonus differences between their male and female workers.
All concerns outlined here, along with many others, need to be addressed and rectified before female employees and those close to them are free from the pay gap harm they experience.
Learn about how employment solicitors can help gender issues in the workplace.