picture of a card being held. card reads: courtesy of the gender pay gap you are now working for free for the rest of the year

Guest blog: Sophi Berridge on www.equalpayatwork.org.uk

We need to talk about pay

Many people dislike talking about their pay; the perception is that one either boasts or whines and neither makes for good conversation. The sense that the topic is grubby and distasteful discourages open discourse about something that forms a key pillar of the way that our society works; or doesn’t. This is all very well for those who are remunerated fairly and well – or believe they are – but doesn’t allow for wider discussions about how structures can discriminate against individuals and groups of people, sometimes just through ignorance or negligence. Questions like “why is Bob working 12 hours a day at a skilled job and getting 81 times less than Andre who is working a 6-hour day?” or ” why don’t people of colour ever seem to get promotion or pay increases in Sheila’s team?” or “why does Sarah, who does a very similar job to Kalim get paid a lot less? rarely get asked.

If you find out that you are doing a similar job to someone else, but they are being paid more than you, you can take action. With regards to sex for example, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate between men and women* in the same employment doing equal work. However, raising an equal pay claim can be time-consuming, expensive and difficult and that’s only if you discover that you might have grounds for one.

Often, no-one has any idea what anyone else in their organisation is paid; sometimes it can even be difficult to determine if your own pay is correct! Pay policies lack clarity, salary bands overlap, managers use their own discretion to determine starting salaries and increases in pay for performance, bonuses are awarded on spurious grounds and employees on parental leave or those that are part-time miss out on awards and opportunities. If an organisation has clear transparent policies on pay, promotion and other related policies and systems in place to audit their practice then pay discrimination is less likely to happen. If employees know who is paid what and why as well as their own path for progression, then they can be more confident that they are not being discriminated against. 

Developing the Equal Pay Toolkit

With this in mind, some of the most knowledgeable and experienced people (and I’m certainly not counting myself in this) worked together to produce a toolkit highlighting the importance of encouraging their employers to make changes to their policies and practises to make them more transparent and reduce instances of unequal pay. This particular toolkit was part of the EqualPay50 project and so focuses on pay between men and women* but should provide a springboard for a wider conversation about pay including with regards to other characteristics protected under the Equality Act 2010.

The toolkit had input in different sections from a variety of trade union and CIPD officials, academic experts, lawyers and a group of workers from a variety of backgrounds. I learnt so much while working with everyone on this. Each person had stories and ideas that helped to shape the toolkit, but the overarching message is that we wanted employers to be transparent about why they pay their employees what they do and how they do it. We wanted them to examine their own practices honestly, and make changes where necessary, to improve fairness and clarity.

More and more job seekers look for places to work that have a proven record of good practice in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion and this toolkit can support employees and workers who want to nudge their employer towards achieving that aim in terms of pay.

I am immensely pleased that this has now been launched as a website – www.equalpayatwork.org.uk – and hope that it will be used by thousands of people to make real change in their workplaces. Register now and find the tools you need to tackle pay inequality in your workplace. 

Sophi Berridge, former Senior Campaigns Officer at The Equality Trust

* I’m sensitive to the fact that not everyone identifies as a man or a woman, but this is how legislation is currently written and how data is collected at the moment.