The Equal Pay Gap affecting the LGBTQ+ community
The BBC recently reported in its Worklife feature that a decade after graduation employees from the LGBTQ+ community in the US earn 22% less than their straight counterparts according to findings from Social Science Research Network in April 2022. Stark and shocking figures. Higher than the equal pay gap for cis men/cis women in the US (currently 17%) and the UK (currently 15.4%). The reasons for this, as with other similar studies in other countries, are complex and do not provide any unifying underlying basis for the discrepancy on the diverse group of workers that makes up the LGBTQ+ community.
In another study, again from the US, gay men were identified as being paid 11% less than their straight counterparts whereas lesbian women were paid 9% more than their straight peers. This may be explained by the equal pay gap suffered by working mothers, and therefore not necessarily reflective of a true or meaningful achievement for lesbian women. Further detrimental pay discrepancies have been identified in the transgender and bisexual community. Research data is still raw and developing in this area as are ideas as to how to tackle the issues which it raises.
What appears to be instrumental in the LGBTQ+ community achieving equality throughout their working and civil life are robust equality laws protecting their equal treatment not only at work but within society. Laws need to protect access to the broad range of civil rights, including the right not to be discriminated at work in any respect. In many countries these rights are still very much a work in progress. In some they are regressive. Pay is only one element of equality, but it is a crucial economic measure of acceptance and dignity.
One approach in the UK, which has largely brought parity to most aspects of civil and working life would be to use a raft of measures to foster wider acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and lower tolerance of discrimination in any form. Legislation is only one way to change attitudes and clearly education, at the earliest stage and throughout all ages will be pivotal. As the BBC Worklife report states:
“Research shows the pattern of lower earnings across LGBTQ+ workers is set in motion long before people are established in the workplace, through choices they make in their younger academic years and early professional lives. Once in the workplace, discrimination compounds the effect of these decisions, holding people back from progressing the same way as their heterosexual peers.”
It has been over 50 years since the Equal Pay Act 1970 came onto the statute books, yet the equal pay gap in 2021 was still a shocking 15.4% rising from 14.9% in 2020. The Act, after more than half a decade remains unacceptably ineffectual at ensuring that women are paid the same as men. No such legislation exists to protect other minority groups, including the LGBTQ+ community from suffering unequal pay.
Perhaps we need to think of a better, quicker solution for all groups who suffer unequal pay?
Surely, we can’t expect them to wait another 50 years.