A culture of pay secrecy persists in UK workplaces according to new research from leading campaigning charity The Fawcett Society. They claim this allows pay discrimination to thrive. Launched on the eve of Equal Pay Day on Saturday 10th November, the day in the year when women effectively start to work for free, the research has found that six out of ten (61%) workers say they would be uncomfortable asking a colleague how much they earn. Half of those surveyed (52%) say their managers would respond negatively to more openness, indicating they think it is difficult to challenge.

Nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, a shocking 1 in 3 men (35%) and women (33%) in work do not know that it is illegal to pay women and men differently for equal work.

In response the Fawcett Society have teamed up with employment law charity YESS Law to launch a new Equal Pay Advice Service, funded by an Equal Pay Fund which has been started thanks to the generous donation of backdated pay from former BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie. The service will be targeted at those on low incomes who believe they are experiencing pay discrimination and who do not have access to legal advice, enabling them to resolve the situation with their employer. They are also launching a fundraising drive on GoFundMe at gofundme.com/equalpaynow.

Further key findings from the research:

  • 53% of women and 47% of men in work would be uncomfortable telling a colleague how much they earn.
    Six out of 10 (60%) workers are unaware that they have a legal right to have conversations with colleagues about pay if they think they are being discriminated against because of their gender.
  • Three in 10 (31%) workers believe their contracts ban people from talking to each other about pay, despite this being legally unenforceable.
  • More men (38%) than women (26%) in work believe that a person does not have a legal right to ask their colleagues how much they are paid, if that person thinks they might be experiencing pay discrimination because of their gender.

But there is some good news:

  • Half (50%) of workers would share their salary information with a colleague whom they didn’t know very well, if they thought they might be experiencing discrimination.
  • This rises to 62% for women and 57% for men if it was a colleague whom they knew well in their team, who asked because they thought they might be experiencing discrimination.

Carrie Gracie said:

“The fight for equal pay often pits a lone woman against a very powerful employer. Without the support of other BBC Women and without great legal advice, I would have struggled to get through my own equal pay ordeal. Many women in other workplaces have since told me about their feelings of loneliness and helplessness in confronting pay discrimination. I feel particularly concerned about low paid women who may not be able to afford legal advice, and I hope support from our new Equal Pay Advice Service will help give them the confidence to pursue their rights.”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said:

“In workplaces all over the country, pay discrimination is able to thrive and is more common than people realise because of a culture of pay secrecy which persists. People do not know their basic rights and do not know what their colleagues earn.”

“This Equal Pay Day we are asking you to talk about pay at work, share news about the Fund with #GetEqual on #EqualPayDay and donate to support via our GoFundMe page. With your help we can ensure many more women have access to justice and get equal pay.

Emma Webster, Joint CEO of YESS Law said:

“Access to expert legal advice is crucial so that women understand their position and are empowered to raise the issue of Equal Pay. Most people want to keep their job and maintain a good relationship with their employer whilst also being paid equally.

“We are a charity which focusses entirely on resolving disputes through pragmatic and constructive conversations as opposed to escalating disputes to litigation. Our resolution-focussed approach provides people with advice, support and coaching to encourage open conversations and solutions.”

This Equal Pay Day, Fawcett are calling on people to be a part of their campaign to fight unequal pay by taking ‘3 steps to #GetEqual’: Talk, Share, and Donate.

  •  Talk to your colleagues and ask what they earn – end the culture of pay secrecy working to the benefit of employers
  • Share an equals sign on social media and #GetEqual #EqualPayDay. Spread the news about Fawcett’s Equal Pay Advice Service – are you or somebody you know being paid unfairly because of your sex? Apply for the Fund at www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/equal-pay-advice-service and we may be able help
  • Donate to the Equal Pay Fund via our GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/equalpaynow and help women on low incomes access legal advice and claim their rights

Download the press release here

Download the Survation survey data tables here

Help us fight pay discrimination for women on low incomes. Visit our GoFundMe page to donate towards the Equal Pay Fund now.

For more information or interviews contact Fresh communication:
Abby Richardson – [email protected] / 07876 378 733
Nathalie Golden – [email protected] / 07769 66 66