UK Equal Pay Day 18 November 2021- don’t bake it in!

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Baking (whether you are a fan of BBC’s "Bake Off" or not) is a theme that pervades equal pay this year.  It’s a concept that the Fawcett Society is focussing on; to make progress in equal pay we need to look at the ingredients and look at the bakes!  

Today - UK Equal Pay Day – marks the day in the year on which women effectively, on average, stop earning compared to men. According to the Fawcett Society the mean full time hourly gender pay gap in the UK in 2021 is 11.9%, an increase from last year when it was 10.6%.  

As part of this year’s UK Equal Pay Day 2021 campaign, the Fawcett Society is calling on employers to take the #EndSalaryHistory pledge: stop asking new recruits how much they were paid in their previous jobs. Ending salary history is an essential step in improving equal pay. If we ask for salary history and base the salary that we pay a new recruit on their history, we are baking in the discrimination our new recruit may have experienced in previous employment. Research is clear that women, people of colour and those with disabilities have lower salaries, a reality which is compounded if any of these characteristics are combined. If we base future salaries on past salaries, we are simply repeating the same injustice. I would argue that the same pledge should apply to internal hires, try to avoid looking at current salaries when recruiting internally and offer the right salary for the role.

There are a number of reasons why someone’s previous salary is a poor indicator of their value. They may, for example, have had to take a more junior job due to caring responsibilities or illness; they may have taken a career break for the same reasons. Covid brought these realities into sharp focus. In the last 18 months a disproportionate number of mothers lost their jobs or were placed on furlough, where their career stagnated. Mothers were 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since the start of the first lockdown, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. By paying them with reference to a historic salary, we make it harder for them to step back up again. In paying them what they are worth, rather than what society has got away with in the past, we will make steps toward reducing the pay gap. And still, there is far more we can do. 

Much of equal pay analysis means looking at the data and crunching the numbers. Some of the most advanced businesses in this space put an extra fortnight in the calendar to ensure an independent group can analyse all compensation figures (not just basic salary) on each and a combination of protected characteristics listed in the Equalities Act 2010 prior to publishing data. However, data crunching alone is not enough - it is important that individual managers look at equal pay from a practical day to day perspective in the workplace. What else is baked into your workplace and your team? Consider the following “ingredients” –which ones do you pay for and which ones do you expect employees to do for free?  Consider the following questions before you analyse your pay data: 

·       Who books the annual party, organises the birthday card, sends the flowers when someone is unwell? When I started work at byrne·dean, I was delighted to see this was part of someone’s job- it is important, it matters, it is valued so put it in someone’s job description and pay for it.

·       Who is asked to sit on extra committees and networks? I have heard so much frustration in the voices of senior employees who themselves are working against systemic discrimination, that they are always asked to sit on diversity networks as an extra, mentor more people as an extra, sit for corporate photos as an extra etc. If diversity work is important to your business, then pay people to do it. Asking someone who you have already identified as having a harder path to do more in this area and then not paying them for it just bakes the problem in again. Also accept that they are entitled to say no to this type of work without fear of consequence.

·       Who covers when someone else is sick? Who helps out the new recruit, manages the induction? Do we just assume that the same person will do it because they are a “friendly face”? What would happen if they didn’t? Pay for it.

·       Who helps you look good to senior management? There is always that supportive person in the team, the person who reminds you of that meeting or that you need to take those papers to a meeting - you often hear the phrase “work wife”. I hate that phrase - teams support each other and should support each other but pay the people who support you. It takes time out of their day when they are not focussing on their objectives – if it’s part of their job to support you, make it an objective and pay for it.

·       How much would it cost you to replace this person?

·       How would you feel if everyone in your team knew what everyone else was paid including you? Would they think it is fair? 

And a final ingredient to consider is this uptick in the gap over the period of the Covid pandemic. It has been more damaging to women, particularly women of colour, and to people with disabilities. We need to ensure that as we move towards hybrid working, we avoid the two-tier workforce approach being discussed in the press. To read more about this please see Victoria Lewis’s presentation about what could be the biggest threat to inclusion and more importantly how to overcome it by putting the right scaffolding in place.  Webinar: Hybrid working - building an inclusive and collaborative culture | Podcasts and webinars | Tools |

At byrne·dean we spend a lot of time asking people how they want to be treated at work – every session includes the response fairly and transparently. Equal pay is fair pay, equal pay is transparent pay – consider the ingredients you are putting in to make sure you are getting a result you are proud of.

And let’s be clear equal pay is a problem at every level – I wonder what the pay gap is between Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood?

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