Anna’s Blog – Mind the Pay Gap

Anna’s Blog – Mind the Pay Gap

A ‘pay gap’ measures the differences in average pay between people doing the same or similar jobs, with the pay shown based on different characteristics – like gender, age, or race. Representing information as a £ for £ or % comparison is meant to help make it easier to engage with the real difference in pay without it being distorted by any other factors (such as working part time).

The most well-known pay gap is the gender pay gap, i.e. how much more a man would earn than a female counterpart. This has been measured by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) since 1997, where the gap was 17.4% in favour of men (based on full time & part time employees). Since then the gender pay gap in the UK has been incrementally lessening year on year since employers committed to taking actions for equity, showing a low of 7% in 2020 and a rate in 2022 of 8.3%.

In 2017, the Government introduced new legislation, stating that employers with 250 or more employees in England, Wales, and Scotland have to annually publish a report on their gender pay gap. This visibility enables anyone to view meaningful data about gender parity within any organisation to make informed decisions about their employment or engagement with an organisation. There is even a Twitter (sorry, I know it’s X now) bot that tracks tweets by organisations about International Women’s Day and tweets about their gender pay gap data.

While the reduction in the pay gap represents welcome news, and is thanks in no small part to the growing movement for more equal pay, it remains a substantial issue for women because it doesn’t represent the whole picture. It isn’t just about the fact women walk away with less pay for the same work in approximately 80% of companies, but the fact women are penalised in terms of retirement and pensions as well – mostly linked to the unequal division of caring responsibilities (as reported in The Guardian).

Earlier in 2023, The Guardian also reported that the estimated percentage difference in retirement income for men and women in 2020-2021 is 40.5%. This means that by their 60’s, the average woman’s pension sits at £51,100 whereas men have on average £156,500. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that women are “twice as likely as men” to miss out on being auto-enrolled onto their workplace pension as approximately 1.4m women earn less than the £10,000 threshold that legally requires organisations to auto-enrol them. In real terms, this means that women are more likely to retire later because their pensions are insufficient, and that will lead to a lower quality of life when they do retire.

The transparency in pay gap analysis is expanding – considering the racial, LGBTQ+, disability, and pension pay gap, including the impact of intersectionality on individuals (i.e. where people exist in more than one group).

The disability pay gap currently sits at 13.8% in the ONS report, which has widened from 11.7% in 2014. For autistic people, the pay gap is even wider, sitting at around 33.5% less than non-disabled employees without a long-lasting health condition. People with a disability are also less likely to have a job than someone without a disability- the rate of people with support needs in employment was 35%, whereas for people without support needs, this was 63% for men and 57% for women. Research has also found that only 6% of adults with a learning disability are in paid employment, but around 65% said that they would like a job.

Adjustments can be challenging, but there are many ways in which pathways to employment can be a reality for people with support needs. Anthony Knight in London had a childhood dream to become an arboretum horticulturalist at Kew Gardens and despite having work experience and an apprenticeship, it took him nine attempts over five years to get the job. Thankfully, Kew adjusted the application process and gave Anthony more time to answer questions and information about the questions they would ask during the interview. Manager of the arboretum Ray Townsend said: “You have to give someone the opportunity to prove themselves […] You’ve got to be patient and flexible.” Anthony is now responsible for the rosaceae area and has been commended by his manager for being “reliable and dedicated”.

The race pay gap has also been a repeat topic, with experts advising the disparity stems primarily from discrimination in terms of opportunity for development, being passed over for promotion, bullying or harassment. The ONS found a 2.3% pay gap between white people and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals. However, this is only an average, and doesn’t reflect the individual experiences of people from specific backgrounds.

Intersectionally speaking, the Equality and Human Rights Commission also found that “where the ethnic pay gaps exist, they tend to become larger when disability is factored in”, meaning that people who are disabled and from a Black, Asian, or minority ethnic background will likely face an even wider pay gap.

The rise in conversations surrounding pay gaps of all forms are helping to raise awareness of how impactful and prejudicial they are, and require organisations to confront the gaps in their compensation for employees. It is clear that more needs to be done than simply submitting annual reports however, and we hope to see future legislation helping to combat pay and pension inequality and better support hardworking people of all characteristics.