This blog was originally published by The Metro.

What is the last great taboo?

I know, your mind is wondering over all kinds of illicit territory right now isn’t it? But I will give you a clue. It’s not rude but it is sometimes described as ‘distasteful’.

Yes, it’s pay.

We are so squeamish about talking about what we earn that we may be letting discrimination happen right under our noses. It could be happening to you, your mum, your sister or your daughter but you would never know because you don’t have the most basic information about what your colleagues are earning. You don’t even get out of the starting blocks.

For many years my charity, the Fawcett Society, has been campaigning on equal pay and closing the gender pay gap.

On Saturday 10 November it’s Equal Pay Day – the point in the calendar when women start to work for free.  It’s calculated based on the difference in the mean average hourly full-time pay between women and men (currently 13.7%).

The gender pay gap is complicated. It’s caused by a number of things including the unequal impact of caring roles, our segregated labour market where women work in lower paid sectors than men, and also the fact that women are stuck at the bottom of the career ladder while men dominate senior roles.

But another factor is pay discrimination, which is often hidden and facilitated by a culture of pay secrecy or at least, pay silence.

Our survey found that over half of us are uncomfortable telling a colleague what we earn and six in 10 of us find it hard to ask a someone else about their pay. Perhaps even more shocking is the fact that one in three workers do not know that it is illegal to pay women and men differently for equal work. It is nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act and a significant proportion of us somehow think pay discrimination is ok?!  It makes me want to weep.

So let’s get one thing crystal clear. Women have the right to be paid equally if they are doing the same job or work of equal value. But of course, if you don’t know what your male colleagues are earning, how can you possibly challenge it? Your right to equal pay is as good as a chocolate teapot without this basic information. Interestingly, half of workers would share their salary information with a colleague if they thought they might be experiencing pay discrimination.

So today we are asking you to do one simple thing. Turn to your colleagues and tell them what you earn.  Men, if there is one favour you could do for your female colleagues this is it.

If you do believe you are being paid unequally then you need legal advice.  If you are in a trade union, then they may be able to help you. But many women don’t have that option. So, with the generous help of Carrie Gracie’s BBC back-pay, Fawcett has joined forces with YESS Employment Law to offer a new Equal Pay Advice Service aimed at women earning £30k per year or less together with an Equal Pay Fund to raise money to sustain it longer-term. The service aims to help women to resolve their pay dispute with their employer and to secure them the pay they are owed.

More than money, this is about equality, fairness and justice.  And frankly, it’s about time.


Sam Smethers, CE of FawcettSam is the Chief Executive of The Fawcett Society.

The Fawcett Society and YESS Law are working in partnership to offer an Equal Pay Advice Service targeted at those whose gross income is £30,000 per year or less and who do not have access to legal advice.

If you believe that you may be experiencing pay discrimination complete the questionnaire below. You will then be referred to YESS Law who will contact you within 2 weeks to follow up.

This service is made possible by donations to our Equal Pay Fund which was started by a donation from Carrie Gracie. Please donate here to support this vital work.