How’s your day at work shaping up, ladies? Back to back meetings? To-do list off-the-scale? Thankfully, no matter how tough your working day at least you know you’re getting paid for it. Oh wait, turns out you're not. Because from today until 2024 women are effectively working for free thanks to the gender pay gap.
The Fawcett Society, a charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights, have confirmed that this year's Equal Pay Day 2022 will fall on 22 November.
It marks the day in the year where women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men because of the ongoing difference between the average pay in their salaries.
The Equal Pay Day 2023 report found that, on average, working women take home £574 less than men each month (£6888 p/a).
This means that at the current rate of change, the gender pay gap won't close until 2051—that's an incredible 28 years from now.
Unbelievably, women aged 40 and older (those born before 1983) won't see the gender pay gap close before they reach State Pension age (66 years).
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This year, among all employees in the UK, the average gender pay gap decreased by a pretty unimpressive 14.3%, from 14.4% in 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Of course, it's not a huge surprise that the gender pay gap is closing much too slowly. Back in 2017, equal pay day landed on 10th November, meaning its moved forward just 12 days in the last six years.
To help close the gap more quickly the Fawcett Society is calling for the government to do more to secure equal pay for both sexes.
"The gender pay gap is closing far too slowly," Harriet Harman, chair of the organisation says. "At the current rate of change, women over 40 will suffer the pay gap until they retire. This is unfair and unjust, and it hurts everyone. A thriving economy relies on the full participation of women, and we are currently locking women out of work they are qualified for and capable of doing."
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Attributing a lack of flexible working in well-paid, high-quality jobs, the report found that women were forced to put up with less fair and less equal working arrangements in exchange for the flexibility required to balance their childcare and other care responsibilities.
"For too long, women have put up with less fair and less equal working arrangements in exchange for flexibility," Harman continues. "We need urgent action to ensure women are allowed to work to their full level of skills and experience. Making flexibility the norm will make it easier for women to get the flexibility they need, and also normalise men taking on their fair share of caring responsibilities. We cannot afford to wait."
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Progress on closing the pay gap has been equally slow across Europe as well as in the UK, with a narrowing of 2.8% over the past decade, despite rigorous campaigning by female workers.
Back in 2017 women across Europe took part in various walkouts in protest of the pay disparity. In French workplaces female employees switched off their computers at precisely 4.34pm, the exact moment at which their annual 38.2 days of ‘unpaid labour’ began.
And in the same year thousands of Icelandic women left work at 2.38pm on a Monday afternoon, the time from which they are essentially working for free per eight-hour day they work.
To aid the protest and speed up narrowing of the gender gap in Europe, EU commissioners Věra Jourová and Helena Dallithey have called on EU countries to enhance work on ensuring the right conditions are in place for women and men to have more choice and to better share caring responsibilities and work.
"Equal work deserves equal pay: this is a founding principle of the European Union," the commissioners said in a joint statement. "Solving the injustice of gender pay gap cannot come without change to the structural imbalances in society."
In an explainer about the gender pay gap, the Fawcett Society points out that there is also an under-valuing of the types of work women do – meaning the sectors that women are more likely to work in are less well paid than those sectors in which men are more concentrated in.
There is also a lack of women entering some well-paid careers such as science and engineering and an ongoing failure to promote women within organisations, all of which contribute to a lack of progress on closing the pay gap.
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So what needs to change?
The Fawcett Society believes part of the solution lies in creating better access to flexible working.
"The fact is, if we want a thriving economy, the gender pay gap must close and to achieve this, our government must make flexible work the default,” explains Jemima Olchawski, CEO of Fawcett Society.
"We see time and time again that women feel they have no choice but to accept lower paid, lower quality work in exchange for flexibility and this isn’t fair. A need for flexible working arrangements, whether it be due to caring responsibilities, disability or simply a desire to rebalance work and life, should not mean the end of career progression.
"Women must be allowed to progress with the flexible working arrangements they require and men must step up and take on their fair share of caring responsibilities and household tasks," she continues. "Flexible work must be the norm for both men and women at work."