Wages: what your boss doesn't want you to know
On 1 October 2010 the Equality Act came into force across the UK. This is designed to protect the rights of individuals and prevent discrimination in society.
But as steps go, this is a fairly tiny one, and there is quite some way to go yet. According to the Fawcett Society, women working full time in the UK still receive 16.4% less per hour than men.
This is the equivalent of men working for pay all year round, while women stop working for pay from 2 November.
So why are women still being paid less than men?
The statistics give a clue. In their 20s men and women have a tiny gap in earnings - around 0.7%.
However, when women take time off to have children, or go part-time in order to balance their working and caring responsibilities, that shoots up to 18%. This figure calculates earnings per hour, so is not a direct result of women working less.
Even where women have taken as little as six months out of the workplace, and even when part-time means just a day off a week, this pattern endures.
A 35-year-old office manager, who prefers not to be named, says: "As part of my job I have to process the payroll. The difference between what men and women in the same jobs are earning is a joke. On the sales floor, I can see there are women bringing in almost twice as much in sales, yet getting paid less."
This discrimination exists almost 40 years since it became illegal. Since 1970, the Equal Pay Act has made it unlawful for employers to discriminate between women and men in terms of their pay and conditions where they are doing the same or similar work, work rated as equivalent, or work of equal value.
Part of the problem is that a large number of employers ban staff from talking to each other about pay. In the new Equality Act, section 78 asks for large employers to measure and publish information on their pay scales. But employers will only have to do this voluntarily until 2013 at which point the government may enforce it if progress is not deemed sufficient.
Leanne Walker, a 31-year-old public relations professional, lasted just three weeks in her first job. One evening at the pub she asked the other trainee what he was earning, discovered it was a great deal more than she was making, and made the mistake of mentioning it to her boss.
She was marched out of the company that same day. Leanne had failed to spot that her employer had what is known as a secrecy clause in her contract, meaning employees were not allowed to talk about their salaries. Under the new Act secrecy clauses are now unenforceable and employees will be protected from action by employers who seek to enforce secrecy provisions.
But challenges remain. Laura Solomon, a 43-year-old administrator from London, says: "In every company I've been in, salary grids were made public, so everyone knows where they stand. But no-one talks about it."
In many ways, it is simply British culture that leads to secrecy regarding pay, rather than because of employers imposing gagging clauses on their employees - most people do not wish to share information about their salary with colleagues.
Chloe Fairbrass, a 53-year-old personal assistant from the North West, says: "It's kind of an unwritten rule at my work that salaries aren't discussed. There is nothing saying we can't discuss it, but it would be really frowned on."