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."

For equal pay to become reality, a culture shift is required, so people can be open about what they earn. And that is going to take more than small steps in the right direction.

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Anyone interested in this topic should look into the Semco model. They provide their staff with all the figures they need to establish how much they should be paid, such as the earnings of their peers and managers and overall profit figures. Once presented with these figures they then ask the staff member how much they think they should be paid. The turnover rate at Semco is practically zero.

Surely when you enter into a Salary Negotiation the onus is on the individual to negotiate the best possible salary possible.

In the highly unrealistic scenario of person (a) enters a graduate role at 21 with a salary of £18,000 per year and person (b) enters with a salary of £21,000 then each individual takes a 3% pay increase for every year they work then at age 60 the difference in earnings is over £9500.

This doesn't take into account the fact that a female may take out an extended period of time due to maternity leave.

The other factor could of course be - that some women don't choose to go for promotion. In another simple view - surely a promotion involves additional responsibility for additional remuneration. Not something that would necessarily work in conduit with the responsibilities associated with wanting to raise a family.

Just my thoughts of course.

This whole thing is entirely pointless. Women don't all clan together in one large mass eating only cold beans and Sainsbury's basic range while all them men gang togethe, pointing and laughing at the women whilst eat steak and smoked salmon. Women partner up with... wait for it, wait for it... a man! Who knew, couples, pairs of men and women, combined income.

So try this on for size. Men do not get paid more or less than women for doing the same job for the same continuous period unless it's down to ability. HOWEVER if the woman take a career break to have children she will ultimately be paired with a man, that's not common sense that's just birds and bee's people!

According to these pointless stats, it's like a woman finishing work on November 2nd. Well what about the year when she finishes in June, get's paid the same money as if she were coming into the office every day while the bloke keeps working.

As a man, I would gladly support my wife if she wanted to stay at home and look after our children, sacrifcing watching my children grow up. I would also move to working part-time so my wife could have a career as well. One phrase that I think should be used much more often is 'MAN UP!'

We do not live solitude lives. So stop with the drama!

My final thought.. CHANGE THE TUNE! I would like to see a survey of women who haven't had children vs men. Then a survey of how many men are the sole earner in their household. And why not include a survey about gay couples. Then show me some stats about how 'fair' the whole thing is. Looking at one broad statistic without looking at the actual picture is quite frankly criminal!

 @ the poster of the comment Thu, 19/05/2011 - 0

In response to your 'CHANGE THE TUNE' comment:-

I have no children, am not married and am not planning to be in the near future - your comment implies that I should in fact have married and given birth in order to gain access to the 'higher rung' of the payroll ladder, and even then only vicariously through my husband?!? Here I was thinking that hard work and graft was enough for me to progress!

But no, I should find myself a good man to support me as I (being female) am obviously incapable and unworthy of earning the same as my male couterparts.

I apologise if you find my train of thought quite radical; but if I do the same job as a man within the same company at the same time I expect the same renumeration and DO NOT expect to have to justify that I won't be having kids in the next 10 years in order to qualify for it.

I'm sure however, judging by your comments, that you would settle for nothing short of your female collegues giving birth at their desk and getting straight back to work for them to qualify for equal pay?