09/01/2018 2:59 AM AEDT | Updated 09/01/2018 3:00 AM AEDT

What To Do If You're Not Receiving Equal Pay At Work

'No matter how good you think the job is, you are definitely better than it.'

BBC’s China editor Carrie Gracie has resigned from her job due to unequal pay, claiming the broadcaster has a “secretive and illegal pay culture”.

In an open letter published on her website on Sunday night, which was soon shared by The Times, the journalist also pointed out the BBC is “by no means the only workplace with hidden pay discrimination”. 

In response a BBC spokesperson said “a significant number of organisations have now published their gender pay figures”, claiming the BBC is “performing considerably better than many [who] are well below the national average”. But what does that mean for regular, hard-working women? 

While we applaud Carrie Gracie’s stand, the vast majority of us aren’t in a position to walk out of our jobs and if we did, we’d be unlikely to gain the attention of a national newspaper.

The Equality Act 2010 gives women (and men) a right to “equal pay for equal work” under law, yet statistics released in November found men in the UK earn an average 14.1% more than women, with the stat rising to 18.6% for women in their fifties. 

So, how do you find out if you’re not receiving equal pay and more importantly, how do you get it? 

Dominic Lipinski - PA Images via Getty Images
Carrie Gracie 

1. Do your research. 

Before approaching the topic of pay with your workplace, arm yourself with facts. It helps to know how much you’re paid, how much other people (men and women) in roles like yours are paid, and how much you want as a pay rise. 

Andrew Bazeley, policy and insight manager at the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for women’s rights, advises trying to find out if there’s a gender pay pap at your workplace.

“By April this year all larger workplaces will have to report on their gender pay gap - so women will be asking questions of their HR departments and senior leadership when they see a gap,” he explains.

“But that won’t tell you if you’re experiencing pay discrimination - if you’re paid less than a man doing a comparable job.”

While the reports in April should help you to see the overall trend at your company, speaking to male employees who do the same job as you (or have the same level of responsibility) can help you build an individual case. This may also be useful if you work for a smaller organisation. Your workplace cannot punish you for having these conversations.  

“It’s important to remember that you’re protected by law if you ask a colleague what they’re paid in order to work that out - and so are they,” Bazeley says. 

Harriet Minter, journalist and co-host of The Badass Women’s Hour, adds that negotiating higher pay can sometimes be easier before accepting a new job, rather than trying once you’ve started.

Again, she recommends doing research in advance before accepting an offer.

“Look at job ads to find similar roles to yours and what they’re being paid, ring a few recruiters,” she tells HuffPost UK. 

For companies that don’t specify salaries on job adverts, checking the going rate on sites such as Glassdoor can help you decipher what others are earning. 

This can be particulalry useful for women in female-dominated industries or women who do not have a comparable male employee in their workplace. 

Look at what other men and women in roles similar to yours are earning and how your salary compares to the national average.

Equal pay means being paid fairly for the work that you do - whether or not you have a man on hand to compare yourself directly to - so don’t shy away from discussing a pay increase if you think you’re entitled to one.  

2. Don’t be afraid to ask.

From interviewing “countless women” about the topic of equal pay, Minter says the thing she’s learned is “the most important thing is not to be afraid to ask” for a pay rise. 

“No matter how good you think the job is, you are definitely better than it, so ask,” she says.

According to Minter, there’s a myth in business that women are paid less because we’re more hesitant about asking for a pay rise.

“However, when I look at my friends, all of them ambitious, driven, confident women, it isn’t the fear of asking that holds them back, it’s the response they’ve had every time they’ve asked,” she says. 

“All the research shows that when women ask for a pay rise, the person being asked feels, well, almost offended.

“We expect women to be happy with their lot and so we punish them when they speak up, we call them pushy or demanding and we withhold pay rises. And this isn’t just something men do to women, we all do it.”

Once you’ve decided to ask for a rise, book in a one-to-one meeting with your boss. If you’re part of a union, going to them for advice in advance may help.

During the meeting, you’ll need to present the key reasons you deserve a rise - including any evidence you have discovered around unequal pay.

You should never feel forced to leave a job due to the gender pay gap, but communications coach Robin Kermode says it’s important to think about how far you’re willing to go in advance. 

“In any form of negotiation, we must always know what our final bottom line is before we start. What is acceptable and what is not,” he blogs on HuffPost UK. 

“For instance, are you prepared to resign if the offer is too small?”

According to the Equal Pay Portal, a website dedicated to helping women negotiate equal pay, if you don’t get a firm response during your verbal meeting, you should put your case in writing, asking for a response by a particular date. 

3. Know that it’s not your responsibility. 

Although you shouldn’t be afraid of approaching the topic of equal pay with your workplace, it can be empowering to remember the onus is on your employer to create an equal workplace, not you. 

A spokesperson from the Women’s Equality Party told HuffPost UK: “It is not the responsibility of individual employees to make sure that a business is paying men and women equally.

“The idea that if women were more aggressive in negotiating their salaries then the pay gap would disappear ignores the structural imbalances which underlie pay discrimination and inequality.  

“Rather than suggesting that women are somehow choosing to be paid less, perhaps the focus should be on how to resolve issues like pay discrimination, the cost of childcare, the fact that women take on a disproportionate amount of unpaid care work, and our education system and culture installing differing expectations for the career paths of boys and girls.” 

Minter adds that “women are often very loyal to an organisation” when they don’t have to be. 

Indeed, a McKinsey Global Institute report found that gender diverse companies financially outperform others by 15%.

Bazeley agrees that unless equal pay is established, more women will consider resignation, which will ultimately harm businesses. 

“Businesses need to take a hard look at what they’re paying their women employees. It’s not acceptable to ignore a pay gap, and businesses will soon find that women will vote with their feet,” he says. 

Ultimately, it is against the law to pay men and women different salaries for doing equal work. 

If speaking to management at your workplace doesn’t resolve the issue, you may want to consider an employment tribunal.

Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for more advice and notify the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if you’re intending to make a claim. 


More On This Topic