Equal Pay Day 2020: Reading between the pay gap

Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member for Employment, Skills and Human Resources, ​​​​​​reads between the lines in this year's Equal Pay Day report from The Fawcett Society. 

Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when, based on the average pay for those in full-time work, women overall stop being paid compared to men. That means from tomorrow, based on the Government’s Gender Pay Gap data, women will provide free labour until 2021. 

Equal Pay Day is based on data submitted to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) and interpreted by The Fawcett Society. Employers were asked to provide data on the pay period ending 22 April 2020 and this year’s figures report that the gap has shrunk. 2020’s mean hourly pay gap between men and women for full time workers is now 11.5% vs 2019’s 13.1%. 

Yet that 11.5% gap still means women earn £3,964 less than men based on the average London salary of £34,473 (according to The Office for National Statistics), or brings the National Living Wage of £8.72 per hour to £7.71 for women. 

The pandemic means we need to read this data carefully. This year, fewer businesses submitted data, which is understandable with April 2020 being such a disorienting time for employers navigating a lockdown and understanding the furlough scheme. 

Key workers have also been significantly affected by the pandemic. According to the Women’s Budget Group we know women are twice as likely to be key workers, pick up the bulk of home-schooling and childcare responsibilities and work in sectors most affected by lockdowns, such as retail, hospitality and childcare. The impact has been particularly acute for ethinic minority women as they are likely to be in lower paid, insecure work.

The Women’s Budget Group also reports: 

  • 39% of working mothers are key workers, compared to just 27% of the working population.
  • 77% of workers with high risk of covid exposure are women with 6. 98% of high-risk workers being paid poverty wages.
  • 36% of young women vs 25% of young men worked in sectors that have closed.
  • Women in the UK are four percentage points more likely to have lost their job than men, with 17% of women newly unemployed compared to 13% of men. 

But pay gap scrutiny isn’t limited to gender. We want to ensure employers are paying the same amount for doing the same job no matter their race, religion, sexuality, age, physical ability or educational background. Whether they are parents, carers or managing mental health issues. 

We need more not less gender pay gap reporting if we are to achieve pay equality. Estimates show that, at the current rate of change, it will be another 52 years before we achieve pay equality in this country. Women can't afford to wait that long.

That is why Hackney is leading by example: 

  • Our latest figures show that at Hackney Council, women are paid more than men overall. Using the mean, they are paid 2.9% more and using a median measure, they are paid 5.24% more. This is because there are more men than women in the lower quartile, and there are more women than men in the two upper quartiles.There are more male dominated jobs in the lower quartile such as manual/labour jobs.
  • As an employer, we are working to improve the diversity of our senior leadership, building on our inclusive leadership training, and maintaining the ‘excellent’ rating in future Local Government Equality Framework peer challenges. 
  • 60% of chairs of Council committee are women and 60% of the cabinet (including cabinet advisors) are women. 50% of the cabinet are from an ethnic minority group as are 40% of scrutiny chairs. 
  • Since 2015 we have been an accredited Timewise employer, allowing for flexibility around working hours which is beneficial, for example, to those with childcare duties.
  • 43% of our award-winning apprenticeship scheme are women (up from 35% in 19/20), and of the 24 ICT apprentices recruited in 2020, 46% were women with significant representation as well for care leavers and residents with a disability.

Despite it being written into law 50 years ago the gender pay gap still exists which is why The Fawcett Society’s report on this year’s Equal Pay Day is important work to acknowledge. Today we call on all Hackney’s employers to read the report, understand the importance of accurately reporting wages and ensure women exercise their #RightToKnow if they feel they are being short changed.

Notes for editors 

  • Due to coronavirus, the Council’s pay gap figures for 2020 are yet to be published and will go to full council in the New Year.