Equal Pay Day falls four days later this year due to ONS statistics suggesting progress on the gender pay gap, but campaigners warn a quarter of the employer data is missing this year due to Covid.
The UK’s Equal Pay Day comes slightly later this year due to some progress on the gender pay gap, but campaigners are warning that the data that is based on may not be accurate due to Covid-19 and may go backwards as a result of the pandemic.
Equal Pay Day is the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men. The Fawcett Society, the organisation behind the concept, uses the full-time mean average gender pay gap for this data, which this year is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019. That means that Equal Pay Day has moved six days later in the year, compared to 14th November in 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year.
While a reduction in the gender pay gap is welcome, the Fawcett Society warns that this year’s data comes with a significant reliability warning given the difficulties the ONS has had in data collection due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a quarter of the usual sample of employer pay data missing (44,000 out of 180,000 employers) and the impact of furlough unclear.
It also points out that by the end of August more women were likely to still be on furlough than men, on 80% of pay, with women being more likely than men not to have had their pay topped up. It also says that the gender pay gap does not capture the number of women who have reduced their working hours, lost their jobs, or left the labour force.
The Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers said: “We welcome a fall in the gender pay gap. However, we only have a partial picture because the impact of coronavirus means a quarter of employers are missing from the data set. They are likely to be the ones hit hardest by the pandemic. Even on the figures we do have, we will need to wait until next year to know if there really has been a significant fall. The short-term impact of furlough also makes the figures less clear.
“We also know there are a number of risks to women’s pay and employment as a result of coronavirus which could turn the clock back for a generation. Mothers are more likely to have had their work disrupted due to unequal caring roles and a lack of childcare. Men are more likely to have worked under furlough and to have had their pay topped up. The second lockdown looks set to hit women working in hospitality and retail hard while predominantly male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing are still at work.”