Why the pay gap?

All the research into the gender pay gap shows that the causes of it are complex and rooted in working practices just as much as in salaries. The organisation Timewise points to a lack of flexible jobs as "a key cause" of the lower levels of women in senior positions, and therefore the gender pay gap. This lack of flexible jobs can mean that part-time work or low-paid jobs are the only options available to working mothers. A report by the Women and Equalities Select Committee recommended all jobs be made flexible "by default from the outset" unless there is a strong business case for them not to be. The report recommends that employers think about jobs and the way they are structured, particularly in the early stages of jobs being created or advertised. But of course their recommendations were not all made into legislation and many employers struggle with the concept of flexibility, falling back into traditional 9 – 5 roles, unless an existing, valued employee makes a good case for flexibility. So where can you start?

Think creatively! Working flexibly can be achieved in a variety of different ways, from job sharing, working from home to flexitime and part-time work.  See below for our five-step guide to reviewing your approach and therefore reducing your pay gap:

1. Change the language in job ads 

Six out of 10 women consider their childcare responsibilities before applying for a promotion or a new job, according to research by Working Families. But it's often not clear from a job advert whether the company in question would allow flexible working. 

So make it clear from the outset. For examples, look at the Timewise Hire Me My Way campaign for ideas of which can be used to highlight a company's commitment to flexible working in job advertisements

2. Ask the question 

Be open to prospective employees asking questions about flexibility. If you want to be an employer of choice, be aware that future employees will be looking to see what your current working practices are. Timewise says:

"It is worth enquiring as to whether they already have people working flexibly in that given role type and/or team. This is usually the major tell-tale sign if flexibility will even be a possibility." And be a bit creative in the way you think. Flexible doesn’t always mean part time. Maria Miller, MP and chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, says:

"We think of part-time work as the only way to get flexibility, but we’ve learnt through the evidence we’ve gathered that it can actually trap women in low paid roles with no progression." Encourage employees to focus on meeting targets and goals rather than an “hours in the office” culture. Allow employees to ask for flexibility and talk about how they can make it work, “without apologising for it."

3. Conduct equal pay reviews

The Equality Act 2010 entitles women to the same pay as men doing equal work in the same employment. This means that employers in the UK are responsible for providing equal pay and ensuring that pay systems are transparent.

Conducting regular pay reviews can help you keep on top of any gender specific discrepancies in your own business. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides detailed equal pay review (audit) toolkit for employers. These reviews involve comparing the pay of men and women doing the same work, identifying any pay gaps, and eliminating gaps that cannot be explained on grounds other than gender.

4. Address gender representation and explicitly welcome female applicants 

According to the Young Women's Trust (YWT) better-paid, male-dominated industries need to take positive action to increase women's participation.  YWT Chief Executive Carole Easton believes that employers need to do more to make young women feel more welcome in traditionally male-dominated sectors like construction and engineering. 

"This means taking positive action to increase women’s participation. Small changes like adapting the language in job adverts to appeal to young women, explicitly welcoming women applicants and removing formal academic entry requirements for apprenticeships can make a big difference," Easton continued. 

5. Get some help.

Here at Margaret Martin Associates we can support you through all these steps to improve your working practices. Get in touch today to see how we can help.

Margaret Cheng

Senior Consultant

Margaret Martin Associates Ltd

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