15th November 2017
Despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 47 years ago in 1970, women in the United Kingdom are now effectively working for free until the end of the year. Equal Pay Day marks the exact day that women begin working for free relative to their male colleagues. As progress is made in addressing the gender pay gap, the date that Equal Pay Day falls on should become later and later in the year until eventually it vanishes from our calendars. However, Equal Pay Day fell on the exact same date this year as it did last year; a sorry state of affairs.
Nationwide there is still an enormous discrepancy between what males and females are paid for the same work; female managers, for example, earn £12,000 less than men. There is also a worrying lack of women in top roles in companies; men heavily dominate the top-paid positions, with women representing just one sixth of senior executives in Britain’s largest companies.
In an attempt to get this archaic gap closed one and for all, in April it was written into law that employers in Great Britain with more than 250 staff must publish an array of figures on their own website and on a government website explaining pay related to gender. Over 7 months on, however, only 230 companies (at the time of writing) have done this out of the 9,000 companies that the new law affects. It begs the question as to what the others may be hiding – indeed, earlier in the year Google came under fire for failing to disclose this information. It transpired via a leak that Google paid women less than men in five out of six job levels.
The outlook doesn’t have to be as bleak as how things currently stand, though. There are many steps that employers can take that will help to close the gender pay gap in their company. And just think – if every employer did this then it would also close the gender pay gap across Great Britain. Here are a few suggestions:
- Encourage paternity leave and shared parental leave. One of the reasons the gender pay gap is so big is because childcare is traditionally divided unequally between men and women. If fathers feel more supported in taking time off when their child is born, mothers may prefer to return to work sooner.
- Assist with childcare costs. Childcare often costs the same if not more than a mother’s salary, in which case it doesn’t make financial sense for them to return to work. Employers can choose to subsidise childcare, which makes families’ lives easier and means that mothers don’t have to leave the workforce.
- Audit your payroll. Do you know what’s going on in your business? Can you easily analyse your existing payroll to understand any differences? If you use an outsourced payroll provider make sure they include gender pay gap reporting as standard.
- Create a flexible working environment. It’s now increasingly viable for employees to work from home, with facilities such as Skype, mobile technology, and cloud-based systems rising in prominence. If you allow parents to work remotely when they need to (for example, when their child is ill or in a school play) then they will feel supported in their role as a staff member but also their role as a parent. Additionally, a parent may ask if they can start work after 9am so they can drop their child off at school – consider their request and do all you can to come to an arrangement that means you can honour it.
- Pay fairly! It sounds obvious, but if you know that women are paid less than the men in equivalent roles then do something about it.
There is still clearly much to be done in Britain to eliminate the gender pay gap. However, some companies are leading the way. The British Museum has proudly published that women earn 0% less per hour than men. Soon the picture across the country will be clearer, as the aforementioned companies with over 250 employees only have until April 2018 to get their gender pay reports up on the Government website. Hopefully this will mean Equal Pay Day 2018 falls later than it did this year.