Last reviewed 20 November 2020

A leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights has pointed out that Equal Pay Day 2020 (the day in the year when women effectively, on average, stop earning relative to men) fell on Friday 20 November.

The Fawcett Society uses the full-time mean average gender pay gap (basically, add everyone together, divide by the number of people) for this data, which this year is 11.5%, down from 13.1% in 2019.

That means that Equal Pay Day has moved six days later in the year, compared to 2019. The mean gender pay gap for all employees, not just those working full-time, is 14.6% this year, down from 16.3% last year.

The Society’s Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, said: “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 available, she went on, it will be necessary 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.

What is called a “gender pay gap discrimination explainer” is available from the Fawcett Society at https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/Handlers/Download.ashx?IDMF=cfc44c6d-f850-4c44-957d-f489f700c339.

This highlights that, from the start of furlough to 30 June, more men than women were furloughed meaning that they may have been more likely to be on 80% of pay.

It also points out that the gender pay gap does not capture the number of women who have reduced their working hours, lost their jobs, or left the labour force.

Because women are more likely to work in the sectors most affected by lockdowns (retail, childcare, restaurants and hospitality) and they took on greater responsibilities for home-schooling and childcare, the number of full-time working women may be reduced in the long term.

Comment by Kate Palmer, HR Advice and Consultancy Director at Peninsula

The coronavirus pandemic may have just contributed to further gaps in the pay disparities between men and women in the workplace, and it may take some years before the impact becomes clear.

What employers will likely do now is continue to review their workforce to ensure that those on furlough, or those being made redundant, are chosen fairly, following the proper procedures.