Last week on the 18th of September, marked International Equal Pay Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the gender pay gap.

Across the world, this day highlights how far into the year the average woman must work to earn what the average man had earned the entire previous year.

The United Nations notes that: “Across all regions, women are paid less than men, with the gender pay gap estimated at around 20 per cent globally”.

International Equal Pay Day Background

International Equal Pay Day was first observed in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equality, a coalition of women’s and civil rights organisations, labour unions, professional associations and individuals working to eliminate sex and race-based wage discrimination and to achieve pay equity.

The goals of the day are to:

  • Provide information about the reasons for pay inequality.
  • Inform on equal pay and raise awareness on the problem of unequal pay.
  • Provide a platform to share knowledge about equal pay and the Equal Pay Day campaigns.
  • Create awareness of the problem.
  • Provide and create multipliers and supporters with helpful information.
  • Identify implementation strategies for closing the wage gap.
  • Close the gender pay gap.
  • Show strategies on how to close the gender pay gap.
  • Push towards the closure of the gender pay gap.

What is the Equal Pay Act?

As the Equality and Human Rights Commission states: “Men and women in the same employment performing equal work must receive equal pay, unless any difference in pay can be justified”.

As this is the law, employers must follow it as they may risk an expensive employment tribunal case and reputational damage if they do not comply.

Equal pay is an employee’s entitlement to the same wage as someone doing work of equal value to you, i.e. in the same job, doing similar work as you. This is often, but not entirely exclusively a gender issue.

Sadly, women are sometimes paid less than men for doing the same job, but this is also true for minority groups. For example, The Law Society states that:

“Black employees earn on average 9.2% less, whilst employees of Bangladeshi or Pakistani heritage earn 16.9% and 20.2% less than White employees”.

The Future of Equal Pay

Today, the gender pay gap stands at 16 per cent (UN Women). This means that women workers earn (an average) of 84 per cent of what men earn. The difference is even greater for women of colour, immigrant women, and women with children.

Days like today highlight the importance of creating a world of equal pay. Predicted by UN Women: “It will take 257 years to achieve economic gender parity”.

While great progress has been made, such as women’s education and higher female labour market participation, the issue of unequal pay remains a universal issue that will take time to solve and great effort to fully rectify.

If you need assistance or guidance regarding equal pay, visit the GOV.UK website for further information and advice.