Today, 20th November 2020, marks Equal Pay Day, a day organised by the Fawcett Society which roughly calculates the day in the year where women “stop earning” relative to men, due to the gender pay gap. 

This year, Equal Pay Day is on 20th November 2020. In comparison to figures released by the Fawcett Society, a UK charity which campaigns for gender equality for women in all areas in their life, this day has fallen slightly later this year.

This is in light of the gender pay gap closing narrowing slightly from 13.1 per cent in 2019 to 11.5 per cent in 2020, according to figures from the Fawcett Society. In addition, the charity also calculated the mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just accounting for ones that work full-time, has also fallen from 16.3 per cent in 2019 to 14.6 per cent now.

However, the Fawcett Society warn that the data this year may be somewhat unreliable due to the impact of COVID-19 and which, therefore, has led to a quarter of the sample employer pay data to be missing from ONS figures.

A report published by McKinsey in July 2020 outlined that, globally, although women made up only 39 per cent of the workforce, they accounted for over half (54 per cent) of job losses worldwide. Additionally, research conducted by the Institute of Fiscal Studies in May of this year found that mothers were 14 per cent more likely to be furloughed and 23 per cent more likely than fathers to have lost their jobs in the UK.

Laws surrounding Equal Pay

According to CIPD, the Equality Act – which was passed in 2010 – means legally men and women have a right to equal pay for equal work (which is the same work, broadly similar work, equivalent work or work of equal value).

Furthermore, the Equality Act requires all private and voluntary sector employees with 250 employees and above to report on their gender pay gap data, based on pay data captured at the 5th April each year. However, this year, the deadline for reporting the data was suspended due to the impact of COVID-19 on businesses.

What more needs to be done 

The Fawcett Society Chief Executive Sam Smethers, explained that there are some other risk factors that must be considered alongside this data:

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.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, Chief Executive Officer at City & Guilds Group, comments on how this problem can be tackled:

Why in 2020 are we still facing the problems of women being undervalued, underpaid and a seemingly insurmountable gender pay gap that will take decades to close?

If we want to build an economic recovery that values the contributions of all people then there are clear steps we need to take. First we need to start early and provide role models for young women as well as help them to believe they can have any career they want.

We should then use the unique opportunity the pandemic has given us to create a more flexible working environment that doesn’t penalise women who often shoulder the burden of caring responsibilities outside of work. And finally, we must start to really value and pay those jobs that we have utterly depended on during this year such as education, social services, and nursing.

There is so much more for us to all do before we can celebrate that we are becoming a fairer and more equal society in respect to gender, despite some of the progress that’s being made.

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft, adds:

Resolving the disparity in pay is complex and involves more than merely a number. Employers must ensure every employee has the opportunity to expand their role towards higher-paying positions. This could mean reviewing how your organisation views maternity and paternity leave, addressing unconscious bias, or facilitating professional development. Above all, it’s about making a continued, concerted effort; meaningful change cannot occur overnight.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.