How to make the new Gender Pay Gap law actually work

HI! Everyone’s excited about the new Gender Pay gap law because it’s great and is going to force companies to be more equal and stop dicking round paying women less than men!

But here I am to rain on your parade and poke some holes in it and say that this is far from the end of the story!

SO. The new law is basically that companies of any sort, with 250 more employees, have to publish data on their websites and therefore to their employees demonstrating the pay gap between men and women. Then they’ll be put into a league table to effectively “name and shame” companies with the widest gap. The BBC reports:

Under the plans announced by Women and Equalities Minister Nicky Morgan, private companies and voluntary organisations will be required to reveal the number of men and women in each pay range to show where pay gaps are at their widest.

Employers must also publish their gender pay gap on their websites. They will have to report every year and senior executives will be expected to sign off the figures personally.

This is great. I like this.

But.

Making companies reveal that their pay scales are unequal and unfair and getting them to make their pay scales equal and fair are two very different things. You can’t do one without the other, but usually when you do this sort of thing with an employer, after they’ve given you the data, they then argue about fixing it for one of two reasons.

  1. C’mon, there are some sexist dickheads in the world and some people don’t believe the pay gap exists anyway. Some of those people are at the head of companies. Some of them are even women.
  2. More commonly, even if they’re not prejudiced, blinkered idiots, finance directors and the like tend to not like raising people’s pay, which is the only way to fix gender pay gaps because it is really difficult to justify freezing or cutting the pay of male workers (and that’s also probably illegal and in breach of contract in a lot of circumstances). So expect to see a lot of arguments about how the gap is because of different levels of “experience” or that the gap is wide because women might work in the same department as men getting paid more than them, but those women “choose” to do a job which isn’t as well paid as those their male colleagues have.

So what do you do about that?

Well the only thing you can do: you argue with it. You either point out that the CEO is being a sexist, or you examine the arguments they’ve given for not taking action on pay and you take them apart very carefully to see if they’ve got any merit and then you take all those pieces and you throw them back at the CEO.

And you get a reputation for being a troublemaker and you don’t know how to do it anyway and you don’t know how to even get a meeting with the CEO and where do you get the information from on what things you should be looking out for, and how do you keep calm and stop yourself from screaming “SEXIST! SEXIST! SEXIST” in his face whilst you’re in a meeting with him and trying to put your point across? And what happens if you find out you are being paid less for the same job as a bloke -who can pay a solicitor to write a snippy letter on your behalf, who can afford to pay the grand plus fee to bring that case to a tribunal?

And you sit there just getting a bit angry that they’ve told you they can justify women being paid less than men, and there’s nothing you can do about it and so nothing changes, and the gap isn’t massive in your company, it’s neither good or bad, so the company’s got no incentive to address it, really, and nothing changes unless your employer happens to be one of those very rare people who’s not prejudiced in any way whatsoever against women, and also doesn’t care a jot about hiking their employee’s pay up at the drop of a hat because they’ve got loads of cash to splash round.

Or

You join a union. And you get access to things like the Labour Research Department, who publish guides on how to negotiate, and what the law is on pay equality, and you get an Officer and a bunch of other lay officials who can help you through things and help you understand what steps to take and how, and you have a bunch of other workers behind you who agree with you and the CEO can see that and sees people will get pissed off if he doesn’t do something, regardless of where he is on that league table, and he sits down with you and he does something about it because – and this really is true – not many people refuse to do something when lots of people ask them to, not many bosses have the nerve to tell their employees they’re totally wrong and barely any bosses refuse to sit round the negotiating table at all.

And here’s what you say to your boss.

  • It’s illegal to pay women less than men for the same work. If that’s happening anywhere, it needs to stop right now, because otherwise you’ll get legal advice from your union (bosses hate it when you say this, they have to pay for legal advice, union members don’t) and they’ll find themselves with a really sticky situation on their hands, so just sort it out now, right?
  • In the more complicated situation that men are being paid more than women because they’re more “experienced” or “differently skilled”, then you still ask what your boss is going to do, because equality of opportunity is important too, and denying women things like training and career development, if men are getting this, can be classed as discrimination, which is also illegal.
  • You work with your boss on a timescale by which you expect improvement and you get other workers to suggest ways to fix it. You suggest training women who are paid less than men, so they can be paid more (and the company benefits from their new skills). You make sure that women who’ve been stuck on the same pay grade for many years whilst men have advanced above them are given mentors, not necessarily expensive external consultants, just other women in the company. You don’t back down because you know you’re right. Even when they tell you you’re not, you are.

You accept you won’t change it all, not overnight, but you know you’ll change some of it, and most importantly: you’ll be the one in charge of that change, not your employer (who’s already screwed up by not paying you the same as the blokes).

It’s the best feeling in the world*. Promise.

If you’re not in a union and you want to be, you can find out which one to join hereAnyone can join a union regardless of age, employment status or nationality. 

*One of them. Things that are better: good sex, listening to Bob Dylan, the moment you found out about #Piggate, when the first baby laughed for the first time and it’s laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies, this dancing.

 

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