Business

Why women are working for nothing for last six weeks of year

EQUAL PAY - traffic sign message as 3D-Illustration

HOW did you enjoy ‘Equal Pay Day' this time round?

Actually, Equal Pay Day is the opposite of what it implies. It reminds us that there's no such thing as equal pay for women.

In fact. women tend to earn much less than men, and today we're going to look at how a woman can best deal with that situation.

This year Equal Pay Day was November 18, meaning that after a woman has worked the full 52-week year, she has only earned what her male counterpart has earned by November 18.

You could say that women are, on average, working for nothing for the last six weeks of the year.

This is what we call the ‘gender pay gap', the bundle of financial disadvantages many women face due to the role they have traditionally taken on in society.

Women are much more likely than men to take a career break, to bring up their young family from birth until at least school age. That's five to 10 years of low earnings and low pension saving.

Women who decide not to pursue family life, but to devote themselves to their ambitions in the workplace are sometimes referred to as ‘career women' – but nobody talks about ‘career men', because it is simply not expected that men break their career when they start a family.

Working as a full-time mum can mean that you miss out on promotion: the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that, once you turn 39, you are much more likely to be promoted into a well-paying, senior management position if you're a man.

Mums who take a career break to raise the children also continue to suffer the consequences of financial disadvantage later in life. Caring duties that emerge later on, such as taking care of our elderly parents, tend to be handed to the woman, as she is already earning less in any case.

Now, it's all very well being aware of the Gender Pay Gap, but what can you, as a woman, do to limit its impact on your financial fortunes?

Frank discussions about your finances if you are planning to get married are the key.

Above all, there should be no assumption or expectation that it will be you, the woman and mum, who makes compromises or sacrifices her financial wellbeing in order to build a family unit.

There could, for instance, be an agreement that, if you take years off work, your partner will make contributions to your pension on your behalf. He can pay in up to £2,880 a year, which the government will top up, with tax relief, to £3,600.

Another option would be an agreement that his pension be split between you on retirement, or in the event of a divorce.

You could also agree that, if you take time out of work, but then return, you can focus on paying into your pension for a period, during which your husband would shoulder the larger domestic bills.

The ONS said that the pay gap is around 3 per cent when you're in your 20s and 30s, but widens to 12 per cent once you hit 40. It's those years of childcare that do the damage.

One thing is certain: this all has to be considered in advance, and laid down in a well-thought-out plan.

:: Michael Kennedy is an independent financial adviser and pensions specialist and can be contacted on 028 71886005. Further information on Facebook at Kennedy Independent Financial Advice Ltd or at www.mkennedyfinancial.com

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Business