By Anonymous Contributor
Across the UK there is a wave of collective action by women working in other industries demanding equal pay for equal work and it is now time for academics to join in. The time for committees and working groups has passed and now is the time for women academics to make equal pay claims that will actually mean that universities have to financially compensate them.
Gender pay gaps in UK academia exist because universities often start male academics on higher salaries than female academics because deans and heads of department have the discretion to determine starting pay. This is despite women having to meet the same selection criteria as men in order to be hired as lecturers, readers or professors in the UK. Universities also tend to promote women more easily, forcing women to jump through more stringent hoops to get the same promotion. This is why actual salary data show that the average male academic earns £3,000 to £8,000 or more each year than the average female academic.
That gap in pay is unfair and wrong. Losing £3,000 to £8,000 a year is a lot of money and it can make a real difference to UK academics’ quality of life in a country with excessive property prices and childcare costs that average £9,000 per child per year for parents working full time.
Women academics’ pay can be improved by redistributing money from the obscene salaries paid to university deans, vice-chancellors (VCs) and other senior managers. Many of them earn excessive salaries of £300,000+ per year from the public purse yet ordinary academics earn 15% or less of that. Not even our UK Prime Minister earns that sort of exorbitant salary.
The collective action in other industries involves organising collective equal pay claims using no win no fee employment lawyers who demand compensation for women affected. This is what we need to start doing as academics.
Collective lawsuits by women academics will force organisations to pay any affected women back-dated compensation dating up to 6 years in England. If you would like to do this, the steps to doing that are:
- Write to your university’s HR department and make an equal pay claim by stating your current salary and the salary of something called a male comparator. In UK equality law you need to name just oneexample of a male academic who does equal work to you (or work of equal value) in the same university. That is what is called a ‘male comparator.’
- If your university rejects your equal pay claim, contact ACAS to attempt further negotiation.
- If your university still refuses, hire a no win no fee employment lawyer to take your case to court.
- It would be even better if you can do steps 1 to 3 collectively, as a group of women affected. It will strengthen your equal pay – this is what women in other sectors are doing.
- If you win, the court will order your university to compensate you for 6 years in back-pay (or less if you have worked there for fewer years). For example, a woman who has worked in university X for 3 years and has been underpaid by £5,000 a year can win compensation of £15,000.
- This strategy will cost universities money and it will teach them a lesson of (a) not starting women academics on lower salaries than men for equal work and (b) thinking twice before holding back women from promotion.
We are also encouraging you to sign a petition in which we ask the UK’s Minister for Women and Equalities (Penny Mordaunt) to introduce a new fine system in which any university that fails to process an equal pay claim in accordance with equal pay law has to pay a fine to the government. That will discourage universities from being negligent. We would also like the government to set up a free telephone helpline with trained advisors to advise women about equal pay claims free of charge because not every academic is a union member.
In the petition we ask the Prime Minister (Theresa May) to please introduce a new policy of fining any university that loses an equal pay claim so that the public can recoup the wasted legal costs of employment tribunals. The threat of a fine will discourage universities from wasting the public legal process if they know they are in the wrong and, instead, to settle at the ACAS stage or before. We would also like the government to introduce a new policy that will require any university loses a case at an employment tribunal to pay the employee’s legal costs.
Finally, we urge Prime Minister Theresa May to compel universities to close the gender pay gap by redistributing the exorbitant salaries of vice-chancellors, deans and others overpaid university employees so that the money can fix the problem of women academics being underpaid relative to men.
Please support this petition for equal pay for equal work (or work of equal value) in UK universities by going to https://www.change.org/p/penny-mordaunt-mp-parliament-uk-solve-the-gender-pay-gap-in-universities-by-redistributing-excessive-vc-dean-salariesand please pass this weblink on to your friends and colleagues via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and anywhere else. Thank you.
Author:A feminist academic organising collective action for equal pay in her university