Equal Pay Day 2023 has passed and now women are working for free

Wednesday (November 23) marked Equal Pay Day 2023, the day from which women effectively work for no money in comparison to men, for the rest of the year.

According to a report by the Fawcett Society, on average women take home £574 a month less than men, or £6,888 a year. This deficit is worse still for women of colour. 

Because of the gender wage gap, women are effectively working for free. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, the average gender pay gap is 14.3% for all employees in the UK. This has decreased only marginally from 14.4% in 2022. 

The Fawcett Society says that at the current rate, the gender wage gap will not be closed until 2051. 

Harriet Harman, Fawcett Society chair said: “At the current rate of change, women over 40 will suffer the pay gap until they retire. This is unfair and unjust, and it hurts everyone.”

In a cost-of-living crisis, the economy has to rely on a thriving workforce. This has to include women. 

The Fawcett Society says that the key to unlocking female potential in the workforce is flexible working. 

Jemima Olchawski, CEO of Fawcett Society said: “We see time and time again that women feel they have no choice but to accept lower paid, lower quality work in exchange for flexibility and this isn’t fair.” 

Career progression and access to employment should not be limited by caring responsibilities, disabilities, and an aspiration for a work-life balance. 

Old-fashioned workplace practices, gender bias in the home, and lack of flexible working arrangements are the reasons we do not see as many women in the workplace, according to Olchawski.  

The Fawcett Society conducted a survey in collaboration with Survation to poll working-aged people in the UK (18-65) on their experiences of flexible work. 

The survey found that 40% of women not currently in employment said that flexible work would enable them to join the workforce. 

One anonymous woman responded to the survey and said: “I was denied flexible work hours. I had the school runs to do in the morning and afternoon and asked if the times could be altered and they refused. I had to leave the job.”

Another respondent said: “I was diagnosed with physical conditions and ADHD. In my last job, I was struggling mentally and suggested to my manager that I could potentially cut down my hours slightly… I was refused… I was eventually then signed off and me and my manager decided it was better for me to leave because we could not find a resolution. I felt very let down.”

A women with long hair and glasses stares at her laptop computer. She is biting a pencil in frustration.
According to the Office for National Statistics, the average gender pay gap is 14.3% for all employees in the UK.
Credit: Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The Fawcett Society is now calling on the government to require employers to advertise flexible working options in job specifications. 

Flexibility in the workplace can include adaptations to the start and end times of the working day, access to time in lieu, commission outcomes (which involves working until a project is completed rather than a set number of hours in a day), and compressed hours. 

Seventy seven percent of women surveyed agreed that they would be more likely to apply for a job that advertises flexible working options. 

Seventy percent of women, and 60% of men would be more likely to vote for a political party that required employers to include the possible flexible working options in advertisements. 

Whilst women are more likely to work part-time or have different start and finish times, men are significantly more likely to have access to more flexibility including, commissioned outcomes, access to time off in lieu, work term time only (in a setting outside of education), and working roles within a job share. 

Olchawski said: “Women must be allowed to progress with the flexible working arrangements they require and men must step up and take on their fair share of caring responsibilities and household tasks. 

“Flexible work must be the norm for both men and women at work.”

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