Gender Pay Gap: The Pursuit of Pay Equality
Government data has revealed how fewer than 48% of the UK’s biggest employers have managed to narrow their gender pay gap over the last 12 months. According to detailed reporting on gender pay disparity, 45% of firms saw the gulf actually widen in favour of men. For the remaining 7%, there was no change at all, topping off a disappointingly predictable set of figures which will have many demanding more radical action from employers.
There’s no denying that this year’s figures make for grim reading. Since 2017, all companies, charities and public sector departments of 250 employees or more have been required by law to publish how much male and female employees are paid. Many hoped such progressive policy would trigger a crackdown on gender pay disparity, but the latest figures suggest that very little progress is being made at all.
According to Sky News (https://news.sky.com/story/fewer-than-half-of-employers-narrow-gender-pay-gap-11684871), nearly eight out of ten companies reported a pay gap in favour of men, illustrating the scale of problem.
Named and shamed by the BBC (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47822291) as one of the worst offenders, budget airline EasyJet reported a 47% pay gap in favour of men. Also among the large firms reporting the biggest increases in pay gaps were garage chain Kwik Fit, Interserve FS, and car retailer Inchcape.
The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, described the figures as “disappointing, but not surprising”.
Frances O’Grady, of the Trades Union Congress, echoed the call for more action to be taken. “Big employers clearly aren’t doing enough to tackle the root causes of pay inequality and working women are paying the price. Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps, they should be legally required to explain how they’ll close them. We can’t allow another generation of women to spend their whole working lives waiting to be paid the same as men.”
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive at the EHRC, said: “The causes of the gender pay gap are complex and deeply entrenched. “Meaningful change will take time and concerted effort, with some changes potentially increasing gaps in the short term, such as employing more women at junior levels before they rise into more senior positions. That is why it is vital that employers publish action plans to explain their figures and highlight where they will be targeting any inequality in their workplace.”
There are many progressive initiatives companies can take, from committing to reviewing and changing their recruitment processes, working practices and workplace culture, to tackling unconscious bias and offering more flexible working. But the problem doesn’t start at the workplace. Experts claim that it is society which needs to change too. Schools could encourage girls to take more STEM subjects, such as science, technology, engineering and maths. There should be more flexible, affordable childcare options, and a more progressive attitude towards paternity leave.
Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “It’s disappointing that many employers are still not providing a narrative or action plan. Organisations that simply provide their numbers are failing to meet the increasing appetite and expectation for transparency amongst all stakeholders.”
The Government Equalities Office estimates that around 50% of employers have put in place a plan to tackle their pay gap, and says it wants to see that increase.
Penny Mordaunt, the minister for women and equalities, said: “Actions to tackle the gender pay gap are good for business. “That’s why we have produced support to help employers close their gaps.”