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22 May 2018
by James Bigus

Taking baby steps to close the gender pay gap

Nearly two months on and the dust has well and truly settled on year one of gender pay gap reporting.

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Much of the headline debate has rightly been around the limited representation of women at senior level. Solutions to this aspect focus on how to recruit and progress women into these roles, since this will have the quickest and most noticeable effect on closing the gender pay gap.

Women are most likely to be primary caregivers

Undoubtedly one of the key contributing factors to the under-representation of women in leadership roles is when women take a career break to start a family. We’ve taken great strides towards gender equality in the workplace, but the fact remains that after having children, women are still overwhelmingly likely to act as primary caregivers, while men maintain their ‘breadwinner’ role. As such, rather than a temporary ‘career break’, maternity leave can often be ‘career halting’.

It should go without saying that having a child should not preclude mothers from also having a successful career, but this is often not the case and is likely a key contributor to the gender pay gap.

Your workplace policies should allow your female employees the flexibility and support to return to work and continue to progress their career, whilst also be able to take time to provide the necessary care for their family. Likewise, your policies should also enable fathers to ‘share the load’ when it comes to childcare – thereby allowing more opportunities for women to concentrate on their careers and providing both parents with a better work-life balance.

Making the most of government initiatives

The government launched shared parental leave back in 2015 to allow couples to more easily share childcare duties. However, the take up rate thus far is believed to be as low as two per cent, well below the eight per cent the government was hoping for. Reasons for disappointing take up of the scheme include the fact that many parents don’t know it exists – prompting a £1.5m investment from the government to raise awareness.

There is much that HR departments can do to complement government schemes:

  • Start by looking at your policies for maternity/paternity and shared parental leave – are they well-communicated and understood by employees?
  • Do you have flexible working arrangements and where possible do you encourage employees to take advantage of these?
  • Look at your wider benefits offering – are they family-friendly?
  • Something as simple as allowing employees to buy or sell annual leave could see a big return on investment in terms of employee engagement through achieving a better work-life balance.

A different perspective

Gender pay gap legislation has thrust the issue of female representation in senior roles into the spotlight and presents a great opportunity to look at your recruiting, inclusion and diversity policies with a view to encouraging more women into senior roles. Why not also take the time to view the results through a different lens, and ask how much are you doing to support all your employees to achieve a better work-life balance, while also providing women the space at the top to flourish?

Author is James Bigus is a senior consultant at Innecto Reward Consulting.

This article as provided by Innecto Reward Consulting.

In partnership with Innecto Reward Consulting

We have more than 20 years' experience in getting employers' pay and reward working harder for them.

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