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Stars Aren’t The Only Ones Caught in a Gender Pay Gap

There was uproar when the BBC revealed disparities in the amount its male and female stars were paid last month.

And the gender pay gap is back in the news again as analysis has shown that the top 10 highest-earning men in Hollywood took home nearly three times as much as their female counterparts.

Estimates by business magazine Forbes showed the men earned a collective $488.5m (£381m) topped by Mark Wahlberg who netted $68m (£53m).

But the annual analysis showed the leading women earned $172.5m (£135m) during the same period, with Oscar-winner Emma Stone topping the list with $26m (£20m).

And the differences aren’t exclusive to the entertainment industry.

Indeed just a few weeks ago The Sunday Telegraph revealed that, at the highest levels, female NHS managers are being paid almost nine per cent less than male counterparts – an average gap of around £11,000 a year.

Make no mistake – the gender pay gap is real and if it’s happening to our highest paid stars, it’ll be happening in lower paid jobs as well.

What does a gender pay gap mean?  

The gender pay gap is best described as the difference between the average earnings of men and women, expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. For example, in a particular workplace, women might earn 20 per cent less than men.  And with the introduction of compulsory gender pay gap reporting this year, any organisation with at least 250 employees must publish and report figures that show the difference in pay between the sexes.

Granted, this won’t always show that women earn less than men. But usually it will, and the gap is particularly wide in sectors that tend to be male-dominated, such as in the financial services industry.

What is the law surrounding equal pay?

Having a gender pay gap isn’t quite the same as falling foul of the law on equal pay. Equal pay claims involve a comparison of one job with another, to see if there are differences in pay in situations where a woman and a man are carrying out equal work of equal value.

But that’s not to say there wouldn’t be a potential claim where, say, female actors are treated less favourably on grounds of their sex, or where female co-presenters are paid less than their male counterparts for doing the same work.

As an employment lawyer who acts exclusively for individuals, I speak to lots of people who claim to be the victims of discrimination. Sometimes the discrimination is obvious, but at other times it can be more subtle. I for one welcome the increased transparency that gender pay gap reporting provides; hopefully it will prompt employers to start looking at the reasons why things are as they are, and to provide redress. We’re certainly heading in the right direction. But as recent figures show, when it comes to bridging the gap entirely, there is still plenty of work to do to achieve equality.

James Watkins is an employment solicitor in Cardiff.

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