Equal Pay Day 2021: how the gender pay gap and being asked about salary history continues to harm women
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Equal Pay Day 2021: how the gender pay gap and being asked about salary history continues to harm women

Equal Pay Day 2021 (aka 18 November) marks the day in which women effectively begin working for free due to the average gender pay gap.

Between gender discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying and an ever-widening gender pay gap, it is clear that urgent change is needed to bring equality and justice to UK women in the workplace.

Equal Pay Day is a yearly national campaign led by the Fawcett Society marking the day when campaigners say women effectively start to work for free for the rest of the year because, on average, they are paid less than men.

Shockingly, that day is today, 18 November, meaning there are 30 working days in 2021 where women effectively receive no compensation for their labour. 

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According to the Fawcett Society, in 2021, the full-time, hourly gender pay gap for the UK is 11.9%, an increase from 10.6% last year.

Though the group admit that the pandemic and furlough have made it harder to calculate this year, their data suggests that the pay gap may be rising, and therefore urgent action is needed to prevent a long-term increase in the gender pay gap.

“The pandemic has had a tough and disproportionate impact on women, in particular women of colour, disabled women and mothers,” their CEO, Felicia Willow, shared in a statement.

“And now in addition to this, a widening gender pay gap paints a worrying picture. The government needs to take bold action, from improving childcare provision, making flexible working available to everyone, and tackling the rising cost of living.”

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The group called the pace of change toward closing the gender pay gap “glacial” and said more needs to be done by government and employers to tackle its causes, including pay discrimination, unequal shares of care work in the home and under-valuing of the types of work women do.

A lack of women entering some well-paid careers, such as science and engineering, and failure to promote women within organisations also contribute heavily.

As part of this action, the Fawcett Society are campaigning for the end of employers asking salary history, as it contributes to the pay gap and can lead to “pay discrimination” following women from role to role.

According to their research, four in 10 working adults have lied to potential employers about past salary and 61% of women say being asked about salary history makes them less confident to negotiate.

58% of women also said that salary history questions meant they were offered a lower wage than they might otherwise have been paid.

Equal Pay Day 2021: The Fawcett Society are calling for an end to previous salary questions in job interviews
Equal Pay Day 2021: The Fawcett Society are calling for an end to previous salary questions in job interviews

Jemima Olchawski, Fawcett Society Chief Executive, said: “At best salary history questions are annoying and our research shows asking them can damage an employer’s reputation.

“But it goes deeper than that – asking about salary history can mean past pay discrimination follows women, people of colour, and people with disabilities throughout their career. It also means new employers replicate pay gaps from other organisations.

“On Equal Pay Day we’re calling on employers to commit to closing their gender pay and to stop asking about past salaries. This is a simple, evidence-led way for organisations to improve pay equality and we know this is good for women, employers and our economy.”

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