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Today is Equal Pay Day but Covid represents major setback

Paloma Kubiak
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Paloma Kubiak

Equal Pay Day marks the point in the year when women effectively stop being paid relative to men. While it’s six days later than 2019, coronavirus could turn the clock back for a generation.

Friday 20 November is Equal Pay Day 2020, according to charity campaign group The Fawcett Society.

It said the full-time mean average gender pay gap this year is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019.

Based on all employees, not just those working full time, women earn 14.6% less than men, though this figure is down from 16.3% reported last year.

This means that from today up until the end of the year, women are effectively working for free when compared like-for-like to men’s salaries.

The gender pay gap persists despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970 making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same work.

The Fawcett Society said that while the reduction in the gender pay gap is welcome, it warned that this year’s data may not be as reliable as usual due to the collection difficulties by the Office for National Statistics due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It said a quarter of the usual sample of employer data is missing (44,000 out of 180,000), in addition to the impact of the furlough scheme.

‘Risks to women’s pay and employment due to coronavirus’

Fawcett chief executive, Sam Smethers, said: “We welcome a fall in the gender pay gap. However, we only have a partial picture because the impact of coronavirus means a quarter of employers are missing from the data set. They are likely to be the ones hit hardest by the pandemic. Even on the figures we do have, we will need to wait until next year to know if there really has been a significant fall. The short-term impact of furlough also makes the figures less clear.

“We also know there are a number of risks to women’s pay and employment as a result of coronavirus which could turn the clock back for a generation. Mothers are more likely to have had their work disrupted due to unequal caring roles and a lack of childcare. Men are more likely to have worked under furlough, and to have had their pay topped up. The second lockdown looks set to hit women working in hospitality and retail hard while predominantly male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing are still at work.”