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07 Feb 2023

4 ways to address gender pay gap – and make work fairer for all

It is estimated that it will take more than 100 years to close the gender pay gap in the UK. Here’s what businesses can do to help

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We are fast approaching 25 February, the day when the average woman in the UK starts getting paid compared with the average man, according to 2022 research by the Trades Union Congress.

It means women work for free for two months every year compared with their male colleagues. The differential is most pronounced in the finance and insurance sectors, where men earn on average over 50% more than women.

Notwithstanding the moral obligation to promote fairness and a just and equal society, the gender pay gap not only has a significant impact on women and families, but also on businesses and the economy at large.

While progress is being made, it is slow, and the Covid-19 pandemic had a large impact on the drive for equality, with many more women staying home to look after children or other dependents.

As a result, it is now estimated that it will take more than 100 years to close the gender pay gap in the UK, and up to 136 years worldwide.

Slow government progress

There have been repeated and escalating calls to government to enhance flexible working rights for employees and adopt a revised childcare formula that better meets the needs of working parents.

Although there are confirmed government plans to introduce flexible working from the day a person joins a business, and an inquiry has been launched into the childcare and early years education sectors, it will likely be years before they come to fruition, if they progress at all.

Female parents will invariably have some form of career gap while they have children. Even if they return to work swiftly, it often falls disproportionately on the female parent to cover sickness or care-giving responsibilities and women often end up working part-time.

While removing this disparity is not easy, there are ways savvy employers can help to mitigate the impact. While we wait for the government to take action, companies can take steps to create a dynamic, forward thinking and equal culture within their organisation by considering these steps:

1. Flexible working

As good for the employer as the employee, flexible working removes invisible barriers to jobs and opens the field to those who might not otherwise be able to apply for roles (parents, carers, those with a disability).

This not only permits a more diverse workforce, but also leads to improved financial returns for a business. By making all roles ‘flexible’ by default, advertised as such, and available from day one, it both expands the pool of job applicants and fosters an enhanced sense of motivation and company loyalty.

2. Target benefits

Look at ways your benefits package can be crafted to support women, parents and caregivers. The pandemic has highlighted the enhanced difficulties for those with a caring role and the challenges of juggling competing work and home responsibilities.

Investigate providing benefits that can be targeted to support employees through all life events and stages. Consider workplace-based or emergency childcare, eldercare support or bespoke services that adapt to the needs of a particular employee.

3. Encourage shared parental leave

The adoption of shared parental leave is almost non-existent, with only 2% of new mothers choosing to transfer some of their leave to the child’s father. Create a positive and supportive workplace culture that not only normalises, but encourages men to take up, shared parental leave and supports them in doing so.

Adopt internal workplace campaigns and encourage leaders to create inclusive and readily available policies, packages and benefits both for taking leave and for supporting parents in returning to the workplace after childbirth. Consider, too, introducing paid paternity leave, to encourage new fathers to spend time at home with their new families.

4. Review salary policy

Women are statistically less likely than men to negotiate over salary.  Eliminate the salary history question from your recruitment process and instead clearly advertise jobs with banded salary ranges appropriate dependent on job titles, skills and experience. This allows applicants to know what to reasonably expect and where their particular expertise would command a higher level of remuneration.

Consider publishing salary bands on the intranet and being transparent about paths to progression internally.

Indisputedly, part of the contribution to the gender pay gap is that women are more likely to be employed in part-time, unskilled and low-paid jobs. However, it is also the barriers that women then face within the workplace that prohibit them from advancing their careers and commanding a higher salary.

By encouraging, supporting and promoting the women within your organisation, you are not only permitting them to reach their true potential internally, but also paving the way for enhanced recognition and equality in society.

In partnership with ApiaryLife

Life stage and life event support delivered by experts with legal backgrounds.

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