One third of employees do not know it is illegal to pay men and women differently for equal work, the Fawcett Society has found.

Launched ahead of Saturday’s Equal Pay Day – the day where women effectively stop earning relative to men and work for free until the end of the year – the charity’s survey found six in 10 workers were unaware of their rights.

A third did not know that the genders had to be paid equally for the same work.

“In workplaces all over the country, pay discrimination is able to thrive and is more common than people realise because of a culture of pay secrecy that persists.

 

People do not know their basic rights and do not know what their colleagues earn.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society.

More than half of women (53%) and 47% of men would be uncomfortable telling a colleague how much they earn, while 31% of workers think their contracts ban them from talking to others about pay – though this is legally unenforceable.

Thirty-eight per cent of men believe a person does not have a legal right to ask about another’s pay, compared with 26% of women.

Over half said managers would respond negatively if workers began talking more openly about pay.

Equal Pay Day has fallen on the same day for the last two years – suggesting  employers are no nearer to achieving pay parity.