14 NOVEMBER 2019

  • Equal pay for equal work “still a distant dream for many women”
  • 8 in 10 support giving women the right to know if they’re being paid less than male colleagues

The Fawcett Society is today publishing research showing that the majority (60%) of women in workplaces across the UK either don’t know what their male colleagues earn, or believe they are earning less than men who are doing the same job. The report is being released to mark Equal Pay Day (14th November 2019) – the day in the year when women effectively start to work for free – and suggests that unlawful pay discrimination may be more widespread than previously feared.

The survey asked women about male colleagues in the same role or a very similar role to them. Three in ten (29%) women polled said that they had no idea what any of their male colleagues were paid, leaving them unaware of possible discrimination. Shockingly, as we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, Four in ten (37%) women who knew what their male counterparts earned reported that those men are paid more.

Just 40% of working women said they know they are being paid the same as male colleagues doing the same or very similar work to them.

There is also concerning news for employers, with two thirds of women (65%) saying finding out they are paid less than male counterparts has a detrimental impact on how they feel about their job or their employer. This includes feeling less motivated (33%) and wanting to leave their job (20%).

The personal cost to the women themselves is significant, with 42% saying they felt undervalued and 38% reported feeling angry and upset. Fewer than one in four (23%) said they understood the reasons they were paid less.

Fawcett’s new report ‘Why Women Need a Right to Know’ calls for a change in law to give women a “Right to Know” what a male colleague or colleagues earn if they suspect there is pay discrimination. The polling shows that eight in ten (79%) people support the change, saying they agree that a woman should be able to find out whether she is being paid less than a man for equal work. That includes three-quarters (74%) of men.

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

“Nearly fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act, equal pay for equal work is still a distant dream for many women. Pay secrecy means women cannot know if they are being paid equally and fairly.  

“Even if they do suspect a man is earning more it is almost impossible to do anything about it. This is why we are calling for a change in the law. Women need an enforceable ‘Right to Know’ what their colleagues earn so that they can challenge unequal pay.

“Men can help by simply telling their female colleagues what they earn. It really is that simple.

“This is about much more than money. Women have told us they felt furious, devastated, exploited and undervalued. Pay discrimination has a significant negative impact on how they feel about their employer.”

“A right to know will also reduce waste in the court system, and head off legal action by encouraging employers to settle cases before they get to court.”

Kay Collins worked as a chef for a leading UK catering firm before finding out she was being paid £6k less than a male colleague for the same work. Kay won her equal pay case and has today started a petition at change.org/righttoknow, supported by Fawcett, asking people across the country to back her and support a change in the law, so companies can no longer hide discrimination. 

Kay Collins said:

"When I found out I was experiencing pay discrimination I was shocked, enraged and devastated. When I raised the issue, my line manager provided false information to my employer, stating I was being paid less because I didn’t do the same job as my male counterpart.

“Even with a letter of support from the male colleague, my employer was still able to hide and ignore the facts. The Right to Know will mean fewer women have to go through what I had to."

Last year’s Equal Pay Day saw the launch of the Equal Pay Advice Service set up by the Fawcett Society in conjunction with YESS Law. This provides free, confidential advice to those earning under £30,000 who believe they are experiencing pay discrimination. This service was made possible by Carrie Gracie’s donation of her back pay from the BBC when it was revealed she was being paid less than male counterparts.

This Equal Pay Day, Fawcett is calling on people to take three steps to be a part of their campaign to fight for the #RightToKnow:

  • Sign and share the petition started on Equal Pay Day by chef Kay Collins, to call for the law to change so that equal pay can be a reality for more women. The petition is at change.org/righttoknow
  • Share Fawcett’s videos which tell women’s stories about equal pay in the workplace
  • Tell a friend about the Equal Pay Advice Service, so that women can get support to access their rights.

Further findings of the research

 When it came to taking action:

  • A quarter (25%) of women who reported being paid less than a man for the same or similar job said that they asked for a pay rise, and the same proportion said that they spoke to their manager.
  • 12% said they looked for a different job.
  • Just 6% said they sought legal advice, while 10% didn’t know what to do and a further 17% chose not to do anything.

In addition to the call for a Right to Know, Fawcett will be campaigning for changes to:

  • Include ethnicity within gender pay gap reporting, expand it to employers with 100 or more staff, and make action plans mandatory;
  • Ensure that women are able to bring equal pay cases without being ruled out by strict time limits;
  • Factor injury to feelings, and lost pension rights, into compensation for equal pay;
  • Make sure that women can overcome complex corporate structures by writing in to UK law provisions for holding a single source accountable for pay discrimination. At present, European Union law underpins this, but it could be at risk after Brexit.

Download the full press release here