by Jo Sellick | 08 March 2018
The last 12 months has seen the gender inequity debate brought to the forefront of people’s minds across the globe with high profile cases and A-list stars speaking out against the issue. From the allegations against Harvey Weinstein earlier this year to the 7th Golden Globes being eclipsed by attendees wearing black in solidarity with the ‘Time's Up' movement, the issue is far from being solved. This year, to celebrate International Women’s Day we have been asked to #PressForProgress to stop gender inequality, and close the gender pay gap once and for all, but looking at research the problem is far from over.
Gender inequality in the workplace is evident in all industries and sectors across the globe. In the UK, it has been almost half a century since female Ford machinists went on strike to demand equal pay for equal work and yet, in 2017, the national average gender pay gap for all workers was still 18.4 percent according to the Office for National Statistics. In an effort to address pay inequality, the government introduced the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations last year which requires employers with 250 or more employees to publish gender pay information by no later than 4 April 2018. However, significant gaps are already apparent from this data. For example, it was recently reported that the hourly rate of pay of female employees at EasyJet is 51.7 percent lower than their male counterparts.
Despite the revelations there is currently no regulation or any penalties under the new system, or a way to audit the information published. It is unlikely that the proposed enforcement strategy from the Equality and Human Rights Commission would have a significant impact on effectively enforcing the regulations or result in penalties being issued. Neither is there any way to deal with the pay inequality the information reveals – it is left to employers to voluntarily 'do the right thing' or to individual employees to bring equal pay claims. Yet the information provided will not provide sufficient detail to assist most women with such claims even if something may be wrong. Gender Pay Gap Reporting is clearly supporting a movement which is determined to shine a spotlight on the inequalities between men and women in the workplace, but it is not enough to bring about the change that is needed to achieve gender equality in our time.
The government should take stock. The only way anything will be done is if strict sanctions are put into place, and organisations are held accountable for their actions. That way Gender Pay Gap Reporting could be used as data to enforce regulations, and companies that are deliberately paying female workers less could be forced to stop and analyse their current pay structure.
The theme for this year's International Women's Day is 'Press for Progress', a further reminder that harassment and inequality are serious issues which should remain very much on the agenda.
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