· Comment

The gender pay gap  - not just a squeeze on pockets

To progress on equality, we need more pay transparency.

When The Equality Trust looked at women’s remuneration in FTSE 100 companies and their subsidiaries in 2019 we found pay gaps that were over 50% and bonus gaps at over 80%. There were huge differences within the same sector and even within the same group of holdings.

In 2020, we found there were still large gender pay gaps in organisations such as Rush Hair (69.2%), Yours Clothing (59% and bonus gap: 88%), and HSBC Bank (55.1% and bonus gap: 68.5%).

Other high street names reporting high gender pay gaps in 2019 chose not to report in 2020, such as Sweaty Betty (63.9%), Virgin Atlantic  (58.9%), Karen Millen (53%) and Monsoon (50.8%).

Our report analysed gender pay and bonus gap reporting for all companies (those that reported in the first two years of the gender pay gap regulations and all that had reported by 23 July), presenting a new three-year analysis of the trends from 2017.

It revealed paltry progress on reducing the gender pay gap over the three years of company reporting and an increase of 179% on the average gender bonus gap of reporting companies. Along with little if no improvement, the same names feature among the major offenders each year.

To see the scale of women’s potential lifetime earning loss because of the gender pay gap in the FTSE 100, our calculator tells you how much you could lose over 45 years of working life. It’s a sobering experience.

In a year when women have borne the brunt of furlough, home-schooling and redundancies and people have finally realised the importance of essential workers, many of whom are low-paid women, then insult is added to injury when we had to fight for the restitution of the gender pay gap reporting regulations.

Women’s equality & coronavirus:

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The Equality Trust successfully brought a motion calling for the addition of horizontal gender pay reporting by grade to Landsec’s AGM this year and it agreed to this ground-breaking move.

Pay inequality doesn't just have repercussions for women’s pockets and pay cheques, but also contributes to increased pensioner poverty. 

In addition, gender pay gaps, ethnic pay gaps, class pay gaps and astronomical CEO to worker pay gaps are a sign of high levels of inequality and we must remember that the UK is one of the most unequal countries in the OECD.

As Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett wrote in The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Countries Almost Always Do Better, "most of the important health and social problems of the rich world are more common in more unequal societies." In other words, in countries with high levels of income inequality, we also see higher levels of poor mental health, poor physical health, violent crime, imprisonment, teenage pregnancy and obesity and lower levels of social mobility, educational attainment and trust.

The intersection between economic and social inequalities is clear when we consider pay gaps.

These issues cannot be considered in isolation, as the pay gaps experienced by women as a result of also being from a minoritised group, and/or disabled and/or because of their class, can add multiple pay disadvantages, just as higher levels of education, geography and class can also confer advantage.

One of the key measures in the fight against pay discrimination and pay gaps is salary transparency. So, on International Women’s Day, don’t give me flowers and chocolate, give me transparency and pay equity.


Wanda Wyporska is executive director of The Equality Trust

Today (8 March) is International Women's Day and across the week, HR magazine will be providing expert perspectives on gender equality and the expectations of women in the workplace. 


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