In response to the far-reaching impact of Covid-19, the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in the UK, made the decision last week to suspend the obligation for UK employers to report their gender pay gaps this year. Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, and EHRC Chair, David Isaac, said: “We recognize that employers across the country are facing unprecedented uncertainty and pressure at this time. Because of this, we feel it is only right to suspend enforcement of gender pay gap reporting this year.”
While our instincts might tell us to lean away from principles we hold dear in unprecedented times of pressure, we would say that it is precisely in those times, that we must re-commit to those principles.
Women are disproportionately more affected by the coronavirus outbreak for several reasons, including the burden of caring for family members, both school-aged children and extended family; the huge numbers of women who work in retail and hospitality which are struggling right now, intimate partner violence rising in the wake of emergencies and because women across the world are disproportionately in low paid, undervalued work – with 75% of women in the Global South working in the informal economy with few labour rights. This is not a moment to be without such data.
Gender pay gap reporting is further compromised by the single lens with which it is completed. Minoritized groups such as disabled women, women of color, Muslim women, LGBT+ women, and refugee women are likely to face multiple barriers to entering the labor market and also progression within their careers that is insufficiently captured by ‘gender’ alone. There is also currently no separate equal pay law in the UK for disability, race, or sexuality and it’s also impossible to bring a claim based on the particularistic experience of facing multiple oppressions. Without a commitment to pay gap reporting across oppressions, as well as enrichment of the legal framework to meet people’s social realities, we will face an obstacle to the development of robust solutions to this. If you’d like to discuss how to conceptualize analyzing and capturing data across oppressions in your organization, let us know.