Equal Pay Day: Women now 'working for free' for the rest of the year

The UK dropped out of the top 20 most gender-equal countries last year

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The Independent Online

Women will effectively be "working for free" today for the next 57 days due to a widening pay gap from being paid an average £5,200 less than men, according to a report by the Fawcett Society.

The yearly marking of the under-representation of women is three days earlier than last year, as the UK dropped out of the top 20 most gender-equal countries in the world for the first time in 2013, according to World Economic Forum research.

The nation is behind Nicaragua, Bulgaria and Burundi for women having an equal chance of good education, career and health prospects while incomes of British females fell by £2,700 over the past 12 months.

Scandinavian countries Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden ranked first to fourth on the list respectively, while the UK dropped 11 places from 15th to 26th since the last study in 2009.

Men working full-time have double the chances of earning a high salary compared to their female colleagues who work the same hours, revealed the Trade Union Congress today, with one in seven men earning more than £50,000 per annum compared to just one in fifteen for women.

Female employees are paid 15 per cent less on average than their male counterparts in comparable jobs, the Trade Union Congress said, despite the Equal Pay Act of 1970 that prohibits employers paying less favourable pay and benefits between men and women.

Health professionals has the widest gap of 31 per cent between the genders, which equates to men being paid more than £16,000 more than women for comparable jobs. Culture, media and sport occupations are reported to have a pay disparity of 27.5 per cent, which means that women were losing out nearly £10,000 per year on average for doing similar work.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "It is small wonder that Britain is plummeting down the international league tables when it comes to gender equality as four decades on from the Equal Pay Act women are still losing out on pay and career opportunities.

"It feels like the glass ceiling is getting stronger not weaker and we need a much tougher approach to stop future generations of women from suffering this pay penalty."

Part-time working women are earning 34 per cent less per hour on average than men working full-time in comparable jobs and, with females still taking on most care duties in and around the home, it affects carers and those with children the most.

Even though female part-time workers are more likely to be higher-paid than male part-time employees, journalist Gaby Hinsliff and author of Half A Wife found that better paid part-time jobs for men can allow parents to share childcare and home duties while taking on fulfilling paid work.

Employers should be held more accountable for how they pay their staff and should be made to be more transparent by publishing pay conditions and information, Ms O'Grady added.

The TUC also suggested that the government tackle the poverty pay problem that affects both men and women as "employers can easily afford to pay staff more."

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