Equal Pay Day: Women working for free

Sunday 20 November 2022 marked Equal Pay Day. This symbolises the date from which women work unpaid for the rest of the year due to gender wage disparity. Initiatives such as gender pay gap reporting can help employers identify any inequality in wages between male and female employees. However, organisations must implement further measures to curb the pay gap and support women in the workplace.

Pay can often be a sensitive topic of conversation for many, with several employers actively encouraging their workforce not to share details of their salaries. Some have even gone so far as to threaten disciplinary action for individuals who disclose their remuneration packages. Since such actions are unlawful, businesses are creating an environment where salary discussions are frowned-upon. Doing so hinders trust and communication within organisations, which in turn can lead to decreased motivation, satisfaction and retention.

Whilst employers do not need to disclose the wages of individual employees, clear salary structures and pay progression schemes can improve transparency within an organisation. Similarly, employers who pay their staff equally minimise the risk of pay-related grievances and discrimination claims.

Earlier this year, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) announced a new pilot scheme to improve pay transparency, in a bid to tackle pay inequality. Participating employers list salary details on job adverts and stop asking about salary history in the recruitment process. If wages are influenced by what an individual earned in their previous employment, unfair gaps may be created. Instead, all employees should be given equal pay for equal work, regardless of what they earned in the past.

Posting the salary range available for the advertised position hints to an organisations culture and improves the perception that they have a focus on transparency and open communication. During the current cost-of-living crisis, employees are more interested than ever than in the salary and benefits packages available. As such, businesses which don’t set out their offering from the outset risk putting off potentially ideal candidates.

Employers will, at some point in the recruitment process, have to share details of the salary range, so it seems beneficial to lay out expectations from the beginning. Advertising a salary range, as opposed to a fixed amount, allows organisations to maintain some flexibility and control in their offers.

However, removing negotiating completely, and simply setting a fixed rate of pay for all, can improve transparency, trust and employee satisfaction within organisations. Employers who pay their staff equally further minimise the risk of pay-related grievances and discrimination claims. Doing so also contributes towards an improved company culture, supporting diversity and inclusion, which helps to boost retention and productivity.

Whilst salary transparency laws are not currently in place in the UK, employers should remember their obligations to create a fair and equal workplace, and the risks of discrimination and constructive dismissal if employers pay different amounts to staff who do the same job.

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