From today, staff in organisations across the country are giving their time for free for the rest of the year. They’ve not been asked to, but they’ve not exactly volunteered their time freely either. Today is Class Pay Gap Day, which represents the day in the year when people from working-class backgrounds effectively stop being paid for the same work their middle-class peers are doing.
The UK has one of the highest levels of income inequality in Europe, and this inequality has deepened thanks to the government's handling of the pandemic. Last year, the class pay gap was reportedly at 13% for those working in “professional occupations”, which equates to working-class professionals earning on average £6,718 less than their middle-class peers. When you look at that figure in the context of intersecting identities, the gap widens further still.
As the CEO of a youth charity which focuses on class as an equality issue, my organisation and the young people we work with know first-hand the damage of not taking action on socio-economic status. Class is difficult to define, and in many aspects difficult to measure, but when we dress up tackling class inequality as creating social mobility and frame a working-class identity as something to escape from, we do nothing to challenge the structural issues at play.
Nobody should be paid less based on an aspect of their identity, but because employers don’t have a duty to record, monitor and report on class pay gaps, people from working-class backgrounds in professional roles work 1 in every 7 days for free.
The definition of social class is presented as being complex, and hard to understand and some people just don’t believe it exists at all any more. This complexity of social class is used as a tool to further marginalise people from working-class backgrounds. It creates a convenient excuse as to why we can’t do anything to challenge class inequality.
People have been sold the idea that Britain is a society based on meritocracy, but meritocracy doesn’t work when it exists in parallel with inequality. It’s time for employers to build class inequality into their existing diversity and inclusion work. We know that developing strategies and reporting salaries are starting to shrink the gender pay gap, but what does this work look like in practice regarding class?
Last year we launched our Missing Experts report, interviewing 277 working-class people working across anti-poverty charities and think tanks. 94% of those interviewed said that class diversity was a problem within their organisations, and 59% of respondents said they either didn’t talk or only partially talked about their background at work. Since the report launch, we’ve supported a growing number of organisations to commit to taking concrete actions to tackle class diversity within their workplace.
We think there are a few simple steps all employers can start doing to close the class pay gap:
Collect and measure data on your employee's socio-economic backgrounds
Open up the routes into your workplace through equitable recruitment and selection practices
Ensure promotions and pathways within your organisation are equitable and accessible
Our brilliant young working-class campaigners fight class inequality in their schools and communities. We don’t want them to fight for equitable pay and progression when they are ready to join the workforce.
To find out more about the support we can offer to make your organisation more class-inclusive, visit https://www.reclaim.org.uk/consultancy