Friday 20 November marks Equal Pay Day 2020 in the UK. This is the date calculated by gender equality charity The Fawcett Society on which, on average, women effectively stop earning relative to men.
On the face of it, this date is somewhat encouraging, having moved six days later from 14 November last year. In order to calculate this date, however, the Fawcett Society bases its workings on the full-time mean average gender pay gap reported by UK employers. Due to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, however, the government suspended gender pay gap reporting for the 2019/2020 period, although many organisations have chosen to do so voluntarily. This means that the Fawcett Society’s figures are based on a smaller sample size than in previous years. The impact of short-term periods of employees being placed on furlough are also unclear.
And, of course, the very fact this day exists at all, demonstrates just how far there is still to go in achieving full gender equality in the workplace.
With England currently in a second national lockdown and other areas of the UK facing ongoing restrictions, the full extent of the Covid-19 pandemic on the gender pay gap have yet to be fully realised.
Reports such as the Office for National Statistics’ Parenting in lockdown: Coronavirus and the impact on work-life balance, published in July 2020, for example, showed that during the first weeks of lockdown (28 March – 26 April 2020) women carried out, on average, two-thirds more childcare than men. Indeed, the report also found that women spent more time per day on unpaid work and less on paid work than men.
Coupled with the fact that 92% of female employment in the UK in 2020 can be found in service industries (compared to 72% of male employment), according to the International Labour Organisation ILOStat database, it is apparent that the full impact of the pandemic on gender pay may not be felt until well into the coming months and years. Service industries have been some of the hardest hit by the impact of ongoing restrictions, with many organisations currently facing an uncertain future.
But while many organisations will undoubtedly have other priorities in the current climate, the gender pay gap should not be allowed to slip down the corporate agenda. If these figures are not to be just a blip, conscious ongoing reporting and measures to tackle gender pay inequality are vital.