Equal Pay Day edges back – but it’s too early for celebration as COVID-19 presents fresh challenges
Businesses mustn’t lose sight of efforts to tackle the gender pay gap
Businesses mustn’t lose sight of efforts to tackle the gender pay gap, as Covid-19 casts a shadow over the most recent ‘Equal Pay Day’ data, argue lawyers at national law firm Weightmans.
2020’s Equal Pay Day – a day identified by the Fawcett Society as the point in the year when women effectively stop earning an income compared to their male colleagues – is 20th November, six days later than last year’s marker.
However, this year’s data is heavily caveated due to the pandemic, which has made collecting the data difficult, and the long-term impact of furlough on the figures is yet to be seen.
Jawaid Rehman, partner in the Employment, Pensions and Immigration team at Weightmans, said:
“The narrowing of the gap reported in this year’s data is welcome, but the impact of Covid-19 makes it more critical than ever for businesses to step up efforts to ensure pay parity after a year where so many employees have had their working lives disrupted.
“Covid-19 will have invariably changed the way we work for good, with more of us than ever before working from home on a regular basis. It’s tempting to see this as something of a win for women – flexibility has long been touted as the key for helping new mothers make the transition back to work without having to sacrifice family and home life, for example. But the reality is not so simple.
“As we drift further away from the standard 9-5 working day, boundaries between work and home life can become increasingly blurred and there’s a risk women are more likely to bear the brunt of growing domestic burdens. If women’s productivity has been hit by the pandemic, this could have a knock-on effect on pay in the long term, risking undoing years of progress to close the gender pay gap.
“Businesses should proactively listen to their entire workforce to understand how their job has been impacted by the shift to home working, and use any learnings to establish ways of working that best suit people’s needs.
“But it’s important not just to focus on the impact of home working. Forced business closures as a result of lockdown will also have disproportionately affected the female workforce. While traditionally male-dominated industries, such as manufacturing and construction, have been able to remain open, largely female-dominated sectors such as retail, hospitality and leisure have been forced to close, leaving many furloughed or out of work altogether.
“Collaboration between businesses, sector bodies and Government will be critical to managing the fall-out of Covid-19, and ensuring that the gender pay gap does not become collateral damage in a challenging time for the economy.”
Equal Pay Day is six days later than 2019
Data is heavily caveated due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic
Businesses urged to listen to their workforce