(CNN)Friday, November 20 marks the day women in the United Kingdom effectively stop being paid.
That’s because of the UK’s 11.5% gender pay gap for full-time employees — meaning that women in those positions earn 11.5% less than men. That translates to roughly 30 days work with no pay.Equal Pay Day always serves as a stark reminder of enduring inequality in the workplace. But a new report demonstrates how the coronavirus pandemic could further exacerbate that gap. According to a report released Friday by the gender equality organization the Fawcett Society, 50% of employed women from the UK’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and 43% of employed white women — compared to 35% of employed white men — say that the pandemic has made them worried about their job or promotion prospects.Women were twice as likely to work in sectors that were shuttered during the first lockdown in the spring, the report found, and there are concerns that jobs in female-dominated sectors including retail and hospitality could be lost long-term. Read MoreWomen under the age of 25 have been especially affected by job losses, with 36% of them losing their jobs compared to 25% of young men, according to analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies cited in the report. Working mothers have also disproportionally borne the brunt of job losses, the report said, with over a third (35%) of working mothers saying that they had lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare during the pandemic. And while fathers were able to double the time they normally spend caring for their children during the lockdown, mothers working in lockdown were far less likely to have been able to work in an uninterrupted way, according to the report. Women have been shortchanged in the workplace for many different reasons.Under-representation in high-wage jobs, the burden of home and caregiving responsibilities and the long-lasting effects of even a temporary withdrawal from the workforce to have a baby are just a few of the factors contributing to the systemic cycle of workplace inequality. ‘Turning back the clock’In its report, the Fawcett Society said that society was at a “coronavirus crossroad,” noting that the evidence emerging from the pandemic has suggested that gender equality was going backwards and that without government action “we may be turning the clock back decades.”Official statistics from the UK’s Office for National Statistics released in April showed that the gender pay gap among employees was down to 15.5% in 2020 from 17.4% in 2019 and that “progress had been made to reduce that gap across all companies in the last years.” But those figures might be skewed by the pandemic, gender equality groups warn.That’s because pay gap reporting transparency — a law introduced in 2018 by the UK government requiring all companies larger than 250 employees to publish detailed information about gaps in salaries and bonuses — has been suspended due to the pandemic. As a result, up to a quarter of the normal reporting data could be missing from those official statistics. This year, only half of employers and 70% of high-profile FTSE 100-listed companies disclosed their gender pay gap data, according to a report by the UK’s Equality Trust. Covid has been a terrible setback for mothers who workThe suspension of that mandatory reporting, coupled with the fact that only 24% of the workplace openly discuss their salaries, could potentially reverse any progress made in the last three years. In a statement on Wednesday, the Equality Trust called that process “paltry,” noting that since the introduction of mandatory pay gap reporting, the gap between bonuses given to men and women on average had increased by 179%.Calling on the government to reinstate gender pay reporting and transparency, the trust’s Executive Director Wanda Wyporska said that 50 years after the UK Equal Pay Act was passed, “women are still being undervalued, underpaid and to add insult to injury, there is little if any progress on the gender pay and bonus gaps. And it’s disappointing to see how many of those companies selling predominantly to women, are keen to take women’s money, but not so eager to pay it to their women staff.”But while the outlook for workplace inequality appears grim, the Fawcett Society says that it’s possible that as society rebuilds, a more equal future could be possible.”For a time, our public discourse shifted to truly recognize the value that our carers and key workers, mostly female, have always had in our economy,” it said. “These changes could be temporary, with the world of work reverting to the old normal if and when a vaccine arises. Or, as seems more likely, elements of them will persist — because people want them to, because they make business sense, or because we continue down newly-familiar paths.”