What have we learned about Gender Pay Gap Reporting so far?
The deadline for firms with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay gap between male and female workers has now passed. Although some organisations struggled with the calculations, and many left it to the last minute, what is important is that now we have a benchmark from which employers can focus on improving progression and opportunities to achieve equality at all levels. So, what are some of the important lessons that can be taken forward?
Interestingly, after a concern that many would miss the deadline, more employers have published the size of their gender pay gaps than anticipated. The Government estimated that the requirement would affect around 1000 public sector employers and 8000 private and voluntary sector organisations. But by the deadline, 10,043 organisations had announced their gender pay differences on the Government website. Of those 241 have reported voluntarily as they have fewer than 250 staff, while 1659 public sector bodies have published.
Whilst it is great organisations going above and beyond what is required which will show clients, suppliers, employers and potential candidates that the organisation is progressive and serious about improving equality, it also shows that the regulator responsible for policing this could have a far greater workload than anticipated and unless resourced properly, it could have an impact of their ability to police it. Currently the EHRC is looking to chase 1500 companies who haven’t reported.
One thing we have also learnt is that there is a confusion between gender pay gap reporting and equal pay. The gender pay gap is not the same as discrimination or equal pay. The gender pay gap is calculated by taking all employees in an organisation and comparing the mean and median pay between men and women. Equal pay rules outlaw pay differences between men and women doing the same or similar work. So, it is entirely possible for an organisation to pay men and women equally for the same or similar work but have a gender pay back. For example, Ryan Air pays equally for the same work but had a large gender pay gap because most of its pilots were men, who get paid more and cabin crew women who get paid less. Now, the challenge to Ryan Air to reduce the gender pay gap is to recruit more women pilots which is a good thing but by having a gender pay gap does not mean Ryan Air discriminates as such. It does point to a wider societal issue in why there is not enough women pilots coming through as well as looking at internal company policies.
There has also been “chatter” on social media and other media outlets on whether the gender pay gap is real or a myth. Personally, I do have difficulty understanding the myth argument given that it is a mathematical calculation so how it can show something that doesn’t exist is strange, but I can understand that some argue that it occurs due to individual choice. For instance, women receive lower pay because they decide to take part-time jobs so that they can look after their children or elderly dependents.
However, most part-time jobs are in such sectors as retail, hospitality and caring which tend to be low paying. There is less opportunity to work part-time in high paying sectors, such as finance, transport or legal. Working part-time can also restrict promotion opportunities as it becomes less available as you move up an organisation. This has a significant impact on female career progression and takes the choice to advance away from many. Research has shown only around 10% of jobs are advertised as being able to be done flexibly. Even where opportunities do exist, often a woman has to move professions to be able to work flexibly. For some this may be a choice they can freely make, for others it is forced on them.
Similarly, choices of subject taken at school and university can have an impact on the gender pay gap. Many of these decisions are still influence by societal expectations on what is still seen as Men’s work and Women’s work. My son is studying Chemical Engineering at University and although there are more women studying this subject, the year group still has more men. More boys study Maths, Physics at A level than girls so to start to redress the balance, work needs to be in schools from an early age.
One thing that gender pay gap reporting has done is to really start looking into the why it exists and what can be done to address the issues. Much more can be done from a government policy level through organisations employment policies through to challenging some of our own views.
Work changes, the work place I started work in 1976 (yes that long ago), is very different from that of my parents and that of my children. I hope from a personal view, that gender pay gap reporting will be one catalyst that will improve my daughter’s career opportunities and also my son’s. Employers can only do so much to close the gap, government could and should do more to support childcare and elder care among other things to maximise the potential in the workplace.
Also, gender is but one issue, we need also to look at race and age if we are to really make a significant impact on inequality in the workplace.