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Only 32% of women believe they are paid the same as their male colleagues for equal work and almost half are prepared to ask for a pay rise if gender pay audit in their company shows they are being paid less than a male colleague for equal work, according to a new survey.
From 26th March companies with more than 250 employees will have to publish any differences in the average pay between male and female employees doing equivalent work.
A survey of 1,000 people from a cross section of the UK workforce undertaken by law firm Simpson Millar found 33% of workers would go straight to launching an equal pay claim if they found they were paid less for doing the same job as a male colleague – a figure which jumps to 37% amongst the 45-54 age group. It also found that while 34% of women felt they were not paid equally, just 22% of men felt that women were not paid the same as male colleagues doing comparable jobs. Workers in London were most likely to feel that women were not paid the same as men doing similar jobs.
Linda Stewart, head of Employment Law at Simpson Millar, says employers would be wise to pre-empt the new requirements by beginning full-scale pay audits now: “There is still a wide gender pay gap in Britain and bringing women’s salaries in line with men’s for equal work will take years, if not decades. But one thing is for certain; requests for pay adjustments are likely to increase once workers – and women in particular – realise their pay falls short of that received by their male colleagues for equal work.”
Stewart counsels that understanding how to compare one job with another is key, but the reason for the difference in pay is crucial to a successful claim. “It’s not enough to show that you are paid less than a male colleague in a comparable role; you must also satisfy a Tribunal that the difference in pay is tainted by gender rather than some other material factor,” she says.
Another factor that may put potential claimants off, she says, is the cost of Tribunal fees. “Even where the evidence of pay inequality is overwhelming, the costly fees regime effectively prevents many meritorious claims from being pursued,” says Linda.
She is urging employers to get ahead of the game by undertaking pay audits. “This will send out a positive message to staff,” she says. “The knowledge that a full and transparent review is being carried out with a view to correcting the situation will reassure many employees who might otherwise decide to launch an equal pay claim. Those who conduct early evaluation programmes will no doubt face fewer claims.”
She adds: “Employers should be transparent about what they pay staff and individual employees ought to be free to ask what named colleagues earn, and what someone in their role previously was paid. Only with 100% transparency and accountability can we close the gender pay gap for good.”