The Resolution Foundation recently revealed that women in their twenties have never had it so good when it comes to pay parity with their male counterparts. Meanwhile, research by International Women's Day suggests that we will have to wait until 2186 before we finally see real equality. As the campaign motto calls for us all to 'Be Bold for Change' in 2017, employment lawyer Michelle Last looks at progress so far.
According to the report, baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1965), experienced a pay gap of sixteen per cent during their twenties. For women born between 1966 and 1980, this fell to nine per cent in their twenties. Millennials (those born between 1981 and 2000) have seen their gender pay gap fall to five per cent.
While, on the face of it, some of the findings from the study are unquestionably positive, there is clearly a lot more to be done. The fact is, there is still a gap, even at entry level, in the jobs market. The fact that the gap has reduced may be more due to market forces than a growing altruism among UK employers. For example, there has been pay stagnation in the UK jobs market since the start of the global economic downturn. This is likely to have made pay – particularly for entry-level jobs – more standardised and publicly known. People also change jobs more frequently these days and so employees are likely to have access to more pay benchmarking data from online sources and recruiters, again leading to more of a standardisation and openness of pay for entry-level jobs.
Unfortunately, the report concludes that the gender pay gap widens sharply and has hardly improved in decades, once women go on to have children. The pay gap at age thirty was twenty-one per cent for baby boomers. It then halved to ten per cent for women in generation X (those born 1966 to 1980) and remains at nine per cent for millennials aged thirty. It is important to note that the gender pay gap is impacted by the fact that women often go on to work part time or take less demanding roles once they have children. Nevertheless, as a general rule, women’s earnings never recover from having children.
Laura Gardiner of the Resolution Foundation has stated that “… the old challenges associated with having children endure for young women today. So millennial women should still expect to face a significant lifetime earnings penalty compared to their male counterparts.”
In practice, I am seeing an increase in complaints of maternity discrimination. This reflects the Government’s announcement in March 2016 that 77% of pregnant women and new mothers reported experiencing some form of discrimination at work, compared to 45% in 2005.
Whereas women may previously have been put off lodging Tribunal Claims for equal pay and maternity discrimination owing to the introduction in tribunal fees, the tide appears to be turning.
New legislation requiring employers to publish their gender pay gap and bonus pay gap data is coming into effect in April 2017. I suspect that this will lead to an increase in the number of disgruntled female employees and consequently, the number of claims for equal pay and sex and maternity discrimination.