The Gender Pay Gap in Britain and the struggles of Working Women


By Shahvaiz Fawad

Writer is a UK based Pakistani student of Essex University UK.

Group Theme: The Gender Pay Gap

Overall blog analysis:

My blog post aims to highlight the major problems faced by women due to the Gender Pay Gap, focusing mainly on Britain. The main objective is to provide information about the negative consequences the gender pay gap has had on working women. This post will also be a major contribution for the overall theme of this group, since it provides an insight to the troubles working women face in British society. Hence this post will be very interesting for the other members of my group, and they can use this information to link it with their topics. Overall, my blog fits in quite well to the overall theme of the group and provides a perspective which is necessary for this type of issue.

 Recently I had attended a debate at my university regarding the gender pay gap in British society. Even though I wasn’t aware about this issue before, I was surprised by some of the things I found out. The fact that the gender pay gap exists and it severely affects the careers of working women, means that it is a very serious issue.

(The Gender Pay Gap-What You Need To Know-CSG)

Women already face the challenge of earning less than men regardless of their job; however women who go on maternity leave face the prospects of being significantly paid less than their male counterparts, even if they are doing the same job. Hence the issue of gender inequality with regards to pay has worried me and I believe this problem has to be discussed in more detail.

(The gender pay gap-Commons Library briefing-UK Parliament)

According to the BBC, the UK has a gender pay gap of 18.1% for all workers, with public and private sector firms being required to disclose the average pay for men and women. All the data would be available on the central government database and employers who fail to comply would be contacted by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. Companies that discover they have a gender pay gap are encouraged to publish an action plan along with figures detailing the steps to address the issue. This measure is necessary as the UK ranks at 20th place in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index.

Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute believes this measure is counterproductive. He thinks this survey would bolster the idea that the gender pay gap is caused by the discrimination of firms against women.

According to Bowman ‘we have more of a motherhood pay gap than a gender pay gap. That gap can be closed by encouraging men to handle a more equal share of child-rearing time and by consumers preferring firms that take the lead in giving flexibility to working mothers.

Regardless of whether the government collects data or carries out surveys regarding the gender wage gap, addressing the root cause of this problem is far more important than gathering up petty information. The reason behind a significant wage gap between men and women is due to discrimination in the workplace, unequal caring responsibilities, a divided labour market and male domination at senior positions.

(The Gender Pay Gap-The Fawcett society/equal pay day/)

Even though it’s illegal, some women are paid much less than men for the same work. This happens when a man and woman are doing exactly the same job but receive different pay. There is also the problem of unfair treatment of women, especially at the time of maternity.Research showed that 54,000 women were forced to leave their job early due to poor treatment after they had a baby. Since women play a greater role in taking care of children and elderly relatives, most women do part time jobs which are typically less paid and offer fewer progression opportunities.

Women in the UK also suffer because of the way in which the labour market is structured. This is because women are more likely to be in low a paid and low skilled job, meaning that they won’t be able to develop good professional skills. Also the feminised sectors tend offer a low salary and are less valued in society.80% of people that work in low paid care and leisure sector are women, while only 10% of women are part of the better skilled trades.

Patriarchy is also a factor which influences the gender pay gap. As men continue to make up the majority of those in the highest paid and senior roles, women find it difficult to work effectively and are unlikely to be paid well by their male bosses. Hence, many British women face a lot of trouble in their working life and having a high wage gaps only adds to their woes.

(BBC News/Business/Mystery of the gender pay gap/Gender pay gap graph)

 There is however, some encouraging news with regards to the gender wage gap. The current 18% gap in hourly wages is an improvement compared to the 23% gap in 2003 and 28% in 1993, according to the institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).But at the same time the IFS revealed that there had been little improvement for female graduates and women with A-levels. For the highly educated women, the gender wage gap is still the same as it was 20 years ago. This shows that significant progress still needs to be made as the Equal pay act had been established in 1945, but the problem of the gender pay gap persists.

One interesting scenario I came across regarding this issue was the battle over ASDA equal pay case. Basically an employment tribunal in Manchester ruled that lower paid women who worked in ASDA could compete with men who worked in ASDA’s distribution centres. The Employment Judge Ryan also allowed 7,000 store workers to advance with their claims for equal pay against ASDA. This has turned out to be UK’s biggest ever equal pay claim.

The Law Firm Leigh Day represented the employees of the supermarket who were mostly female. These women believed that they were paid less than others (specifically men) within the organization, despite carrying out jobs of equal value. Lauren Lougheed a lawyer at Leigh Day who represented the ASDA claimants stated: ‘This is a dramatic victory for the workers we represent. Asda tried to argue that because the shops and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, that Asda could pay the men what they like. However the employment tribunal found that Asda,the employer of both men and women, could have made sure that there was equal pay between men and women if they wanted to, but chose not to.

The ASDA case is a great example as to how working women stood up for their rights and demanded a decrease in the wage gap between their male counterparts. This effort proved to be useful as the female employees won the case against their employers. However working women still face many challenges especially with regards to maternity leave, and if the British government cannot end the gender pay gap then working women will continue to suffer.

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