Mask up for Equal Pay Day on 20 November


Timma Marett

We're calling on everyone - women and men - to mask up and mark Equal Pay Day on 20 November this year.

The Fawcett Society marks the day that working women in the UK effectively stop being paid until January. This year, they’re asking people to wear face masks embellished with the slogan ‘Equal Pay’ and to post a selfie with the hashtag #EqualPayDay. 

Too many people think that women simply get paid less than men because they do less paid work as a result of having babies. 

It’s comparable data

Of course, it is more complicated than that and not so easy to dismiss. The Fawcett Society measures data on average pay for those in full-time work - i.e. comparable data. It uses the mean (all of the individuals added up, and divided by the total number), full-time, hourly gender pay gap outlined in the UK Government’s Gender Pay Gap in the UK dataset to calculate which day of the year Equal Pay Day should fall on. The full list of figures are outlined below*.

COVID’s unknown toll

There’s good news - this year, Equal Pay Day falls six days later than in 2019. This is tempered however by the impact that COVID-19 has had on the data. The ONS has been unable to capture all data, with one quarter of the sample of employer pay data missing, and the impact of furlough unclear. The data also doesn’t capture women who have reduced their hours or lost their jobs due to the pandemic. It doesn’t take into account the fact that women shouldered the burden of home-schooling or childcare, or that they are more likely to work in sectors affected by lockdown - childcare, retail, restaurants and hospitality.

What’s behind the pay gap?

There are a litany of factors that contribute to the pay gap. It is not all pay discrimination - after all, that was made illegal in the 1970s, right? Other factors include:-

  • More women work part-time to shoulder caring responsibilities at home. Part-time work is less well paid by the hour than full-time work. It also offers fewer opportunities for progression.

  • Women are less likely to be promoted within organisations, less likely to put themselves forward for promotion and less likely to ask for a raise or demand a higher salary than that offered. 

  • The kinds of work women are more likely to do are less valued. Nurturing the next generation’s health and wellbeing for example is seen as less valuable than selling houses. This is not true in every country in the world - teachers in Switzerland, Luxembourg and Canada will earn on average twice that of a UK salaried professional.

  • Fewer women enter science and engineering, which are well-paid professions.

How will things change?

The reasons behind all this are legion. What matters today is that we mark the date - 20 November 2020. We take action where we can to change today, for tomorrow.


*Gender pay gap 2020 (2019 figure in brackets)  

Mean hourly pay gap for full-time workers – 11.5% (13.1%)  

Mean hourly pay gap for all workers (full-time plus part-time) – 14.6% (16.3%)  

Median hourly pay gap for full-time workers – 7.4% (9.0%)  

Median hourly pay gap for all workers (full-time plus part-time) – 15.5% (17.4%)