The Office of National Statistics shows a gender pay gap for full-time employees of 9.4% in 2016 and 18.1% when part time employees are included.

According to the annual Women in Work Index compiled by PwC, the West Midlands has the furthest to go in eliminating pay inequality and it will take at least another 24 years to eliminate the gender pay gap within the UK.

Why is there still a Gender Pay Gap in the UK?

Many of the pay differences we see today are a result of deep-seated perceptions regarding jobs, occupational segregation and outmoded ideas on gender and the division of labour in and outside the home. These traditions and stereotypes also extend into the education system: girls are taught to be compliant, but boys are brought up to show off and take risks. These can all create bias when carrying out job evaluation exercises in organisations.

When coupled with the cultural and contractual norm of not discussing wages and salaries in the workplace, differences can easily go undetected. In a 2016 CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) poll just 20% of voters said their organisation regularly checks to see if it has a gender pay gap.

What can we do to close the Gender Pay Gap?

The Women and Equalities Committee (WEC) recently put forward 17 recommendations to the government to provide better support for women in work and those returning to work, but, to date, these have largely been ignored. Recommended actions include tackling low pay in highly feminised sectors such as catering and cleaning, addressing the low take-up of shared parental leave and improving careers education for girls.

This April sees the government’s introduction of Gender Pay Reporting. Aimed at organisations employing 250 or more staff (including those identified as workers), they have to publish a set of six calculations showing average pay and bonus payment differences between male and female employees. There is also an option to include a narrative with the calculations to show successes, challenges and long-term plans. However, there are no penalties or sanctions imposed on organisations, as it is hoped the potential reputational embarrassment will ensure compliance. Let’s hope.

ACAS is encouraging all organisations to consider the advantages of sharing such information and has put together a FREE Gender Pay Reporting Guide. Call me cynical, but I don’t think smaller organisations will voluntarily find the time to carry out an extra onerous set of calculations.

What can you do to close the Gender Pay Gap?

However, the gender pay gap is not just an issue for the big employers, but for all employers. Business owners and managers of smaller organisations can also implement change by:

  • asking more questions and doing more research when assessing job roles and setting wage or salary levels
  • providing more support to those with ‘caring’ responsibilities and those returning to work after a career break
  • exploring more creative flexible working solutions
  • avoiding occupational downgrading when women seek part-time opportunities
  • adjusting pay levels and scales if anomalies are detected

Yong Jing Teow, economist at PwC, commented: “By fully closing the gender pay gap we could boost women’s earnings by £85bn, which is an average of £6,100 per woman per year. It’s not just about getting more women working, but also about getting more of them into high-quality jobs that offer career progression and flexibility.” This has to be the way forward.

Please share your experiences, thoughts and suggestions in the space below. You may also be interested in finding out more about Returnships and how they can benefit your business.

NB: Equal Pay is not the same as the Gender Pay Gap. Equal pay deals with the pay differences between men and women who carry out the same jobs, similar jobs or work of equal value. It is unlawful to pay people unequally because they are a man or a woman. However, the Gender Pay Gap shows the differences in the average pay between men and women.

And Hot off the Press …

A Business Diversity and Inclusion Group will soon be looking at ways that government and employers can work together to improve black, minority and ethnic (BME) representation and this may extend to recommendations for published data on ethnicity and pay … watch this space!

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