Despite awareness of unequal pay, a lack of confidence and knowledge about how to take legal action is holding women back from challenging employers, according to a new survey commissioned by UK law firm Stewarts.

Overall, higher earners expressed greater concern about being underpaid compared to their male colleagues – this was true for over a third (38.7 per cent) amongst those earning over £75,000 annually, compared to just 18.4 per cent of those earning less than £15,000. Almost two thirds (59.8 per cent) of respondents said they had never tried to negotiate their total compensation including bonus and, of those earning £75,000 or more, nearly half (45.3 per cent) said they had never tried to negotiate pay. The main reason for over one third (38.3 per cent) of respondents not negotiating was due to a lack of confidence in challenging an employer.

The research revealed that nearly half of respondents (48.6 per cent) said they would consider raising a complaint to their employer if they didn’t receive equal pay for their work in comparison to their male counterparts.

When it comes to the prospect of bringing legal action against an employer over unequal pay in the workplace, over one third (37.6 per cent) of those surveyed said they would consider asserting their rights in the Employment Tribunal or courts. However, almost two fifths (39.1 per cent) of respondents said they did not have sufficient knowledge about the legal process they should follow.

Overall, younger women were more willing to consider legal action, with 47.6 per cent of 16-24 year olds claiming they would look into this, in comparison to just 21.8 per cent of over 55s. Additionally, those earning over £75,000 were also more inclined to consider asserting their legal rights in the courts, with nearly half (45.6 per cent) claiming they would do so, compared to only 28.6 per cent of those earning between £45,000 and £55,000.

The research also reveals a third (33.1 per cent) of British women are uncertain they are paid equally to their male colleagues. In assessing attitudes around negotiating pay, nearly a third (31.3 per cent) of women surveyed said they were not comfortable discussing salary and remuneration with their co-workers.

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