What to do if you discover your company has a gender pay gap problem

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Moya Crockett
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A group of female MPs has launched the #PayMeToo campaign, advising women on how to tackle the gender pay gap at work. 

By midnight on Wednesday 4 April, all companies in the UK with more than 250 employees will have published details of their gender pay gap. Finding out just how much men out-earn women in the nation’s biggest firms has been a necessary, if often depressing, exercise: we now know, for example, that Ryanair has a pay gap of a whopping 72%, while women employees at Karen Millen receive a median pay bonus 96% lower than their male counterparts.

Some big companies and organisations, including Unilever UK, Ocado and the British Museum, have revealed that they have no pay gap or a reverse pay gap (where women, on average, earn more than men). Generally speaking, however, the data backs up what we already knew to be true: the majority of senior positions in every industry are still occupied by men, and men continue to hold significantly more economic power than women as a result.

But what should you do if you find out your company has a gender pay gap problem? While some women might be comfortable with marching up to their boss’ desk and demanding immediate action, others may feel the need to tread more carefully. That’s why a cross-party group of female MPs has banded together to launch the #PayMeToo campaign, designed to help women navigate the steps after the great pay gap reveal.

The #PayMeToo website aims to provide women with the information and tools they need to hold their employers to account over the gender pay gap, as well as ensuring that they know they have the right to address pay issues at work. 

The #PayMeToo campaign is being spearheaded by Stella Creasy

Stella Creasy, Labour MP for Walthamstow, is leading the campaign. It is backed by eight of her fellow women in Westminster: Labour’s Jess Phillips and Lucy Powell; Conservative Nicky Morgan; Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson, Christine Jardine and Layla Moran; the Scottish National Party’s Hannah Bardell and Liz Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru.

In a statement, Creasy said that she had already heard reports of women being told “not to ask difficult questions” about the gender pay gap data “as it could affect their careers”.

“Employers who have a gender pay gap should expect to be challenged to address it and be held to account if they try to stop staff speaking up, whether by trade unions, women’s networks or parliament,” she said.

“Across Britain many women have their own stories of experiencing pay discrimination including me – now they need to know they have MPs ready to listen to them and act if this gap isn’t closed.”

Read on for advice from the #PayMeToo campaign for what to do about the gender pay gap at your company. 

“Talk to your co-workers about pay – find out what they earn.”

We tend to be squeamish about talking about money, but the gender pay gap data has highlighted the importance of pay transparency. It’s impossible to act decisively in the dark, so start shedding some light on what your colleagues earn. 

“Talk to your manager, ask to see your employer’s action plan to address the gender pay gap in your work place.”

This might feel scary, but remember that you absolutely have a right to ask these questions (and to discuss them with your co-workers). The #PayMeToo website states that employees are guaranteed freedom of expression in the workplace under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, while “Section 77 of the Equality Act 2010 specifically says that any part of an employment contract which seeks to stop you from talking about pay in order to work out if you (or a colleague) is experiencing pay discrimination is unenforceable”.

In addition, if you’re a member of a trade union, employers may be contradicting your rights under sections 146 and 152 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 if they try to stop you expressing an opinion on issues such as the gender pay gap. 

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“Join a union, or if you are in a union, talk to your union reps about what they are doing on pay equality.”

See above! Union membership can be extremely useful when it comes to navigating the choppy waters around pay issues, and will almost always help with access to legal advice and services.

There are several major unions representing various industries across the UK. Unison and Community are active in the public sector and voluntary sector; the NUJ represents people working in broadcasting and film, journalism, publishing, sales and marketing; and the FDA provides support to those in the civil service, local government and other public services.

To find a union representing your industry, use the WorkSmart Unionfinder tool.

“Take it to your Women’s Network if you have one. If you don’t, start one.”

You may already be aware of a women’s network at your company. However, if you need to set one up yourself, you can find useful advice on how to do this via the Women’s Resource Centre

“Share your experiences through our #paymetoo survey. It’s anonymous and will help inform our debates on parliament about how to address these issues.”

Fill out the survey here.

Images: Getty Images