‘One in three don’t know pay discrimination is illegal’

Six out of 10 workers say they would be uncomfortable asking a colleague how much they earn and one in three don’t know that pay discrimination is illegal, according to research by the Fawcett Society ahead of Equal Pay Day.

Two stacks of coins with gender symbols above them


The Society says a culture of secrecy over pay is hampering efforts to move towards more equal pay. Its survey of over 1,200 workers shows over say their managers would respond negatively to more openness and that 53% of women and 47% of men in work would be uncomfortable telling a colleague how much they earn.

Six out of 10 (60%) workers are unaware that they have a legal right to have conversations with colleagues about pay if they think they are being discriminated against because of their gender. Moreover, three in 10 (31%) workers believe their contracts ban people from talking to each other about pay, despite this being legally unenforceable. More men (38%) than women (26%) surveyed believe that a person does not have a legal right to ask their colleagues how much they are paid if that person thinks they might be experiencing pay discrimination because of their gender.

Nevertheless, half of workers say they would share their salary information with a colleague whom they didn’t know very well if they thought they might be experiencing discrimination. This rises to 62% for women and 57% for men if it was a colleague whom they knew well in their team who asked because they thought they might be experiencing discrimination.

The Fawcett Society have teamed up with employment law charity YESS Law to launch a new Equal Pay Advice Service, funded by an Equal Pay Fund which has been started thanks to the donation of £361k in backdated pay from former BBC China Editor Carrie Gracie. The service will be targeted at those on low incomes who believe they are experiencing pay discrimination and who do not have access to legal advice, enabling them to resolve the situation with their employer. They are also launching a fundraising drive on GoFundMe at gofundme.com/equalpaynow.

Carrie Gracie said: “The fight for equal pay often pits a lone woman against a very powerful employer. Without the support of other BBC Women and without great legal advice, I would have struggled to get through my own equal pay ordeal. Many women in other workplaces have since told me about their feelings of loneliness and helplessness in confronting pay discrimination. I feel particularly concerned about low paid women who may not be able to afford legal advice, and I hope support from our new Equal Pay Advice Service will help give them the confidence to pursue their rights.”

The Fawcett Society is calling on workers to take ‘3 steps to #GetEqual’: talk to colleagues and ask what they earn to end the culture of pay secrecy working to the benefit of employers; share an equals sign on social media and #GetEqual #EqualPayDay; and donate to their new Equal Pay Fund via our GoFundMe page at gofundme.com/equalpaynow and help women on low incomes access legal advice and claim their rights.

Meanwhile, a survey of over 4,000 young women by the Young Women’s Trust found one in five say they have been paid less than male colleagues for the same or similar work.  The Trust says a survey of HR workers shows one in 10 HR decision makers in companies with more than 250 staff is aware of women in their organisation being paid less than men for jobs at the same level.

Equal Pay Day is the day when women effectively work for free due to the difference between male and female wages. Equal pay – being paid the same as men for similar work of equal value – differs from the gender pay gap, which is caused by a mix of things, including women tending to work in lower paid sectors and to be in lower ranked jobs.

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