Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

How you can challenge the gender pay gap

Reporting on the gender pay gap has been good, writes Lauren Crowley, but if we really want to see change happen we need to take action.

The introduction of gender pay gap reporting should lead to progress. We now know that 80% of UK companies pay women less than men – and it’s even worse for BME women – yet analysis shows that without enforcing change, reporting alone doesn’t lead to action.

We are now entering the second year of pay gap reporting and the vast majority of companies have not improved their pay gap. In fact, in many cases it is getting worse. Data is crucial to force decision makers to take action but perhaps we should be taking our lessons from Iceland, where the gender pay gap is lower than any other nation on earth.

The Icelandic government enforces equal pay; with high-quality childcare and parental leave across Iceland meaning that four out of five women are in work. On International Women’s Day in 2017 Iceland brought in legislation requiring employers with more than 25 employees to prove (certified independently) that they pay all employees equally, with fines incurred for those who do not.

Equally, Iceland has committed to eradicating the gender pay gap by 2020. By contrast the UK requires companies with over 250 employees to report their gap, without any obligation to take action to redress it.

However, one positive that has come from gender pay gap reporting is that women are realising they have a right to talk about pay and are more informed about what their colleagues earn, meaning they are able to have conversations within their workplaces that create the foundation to challenge unequal pay.

So, this International Women’s Day I want to share five things you can do – whatever your gender – to challenge the gender pay gap:

  1. Join a union and encourage your women colleagues to join a union. Historical changes for equality are done collectively. Unions give us the strength to speak up together and protect each other.
  2. Find out what your gender pay gap is and encourage your employer to calculate and publish it. Organisations that employ under 250 staff are not legally required to report through the government pay gap service, but it is still right for employers to establish what their pay gap is and share this with their workforce.
  3. Once they’ve done that, or if you know what the gap already is, make sure your employer has an action plan. Get involved in the shaping of it and hold your employer accountable to its commitments. Use the strength of the women around you or your union to get yourselves heard.
  4. Work with your employer to implement policies that are proven to progress women in the workplace; flexible working, progression for people who work part time as well as full time and positive action. Use these online campaign tools at Organise to write an open letter or run a poll.
  5. Write to your MP asking them to lobby government to implement meaningful penalties for employers who are not narrowing their gender pay gaps and lower the employee requirement.


Lauren Crowley is Head of Equalities at Community union, for advice or support feel free to get in contact with her here


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Lauren Crowley

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