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How to address the gender pay gap in your organisation

Kate Allen, Managing Director, Allen Associates

The deadline for employers to publish their gender pay gap data has been and gone. In its wake, a revealing picture of the British business landscape is left for us to reflect upon.

Now, for the first time, we have gained insight into the extent of the shocking pay differences between men and women in the UK. Leading up to April 4th, more than 10,000 large firms provided details of their employee pay, with three quarters of these organisations paying men more than women.

According to research from living standards think-tank Resolution Foundation, "the old challenges associated with having children" still endure for young women today. So, while female workers of the millennial generation may not have experienced a significant gender pay gap in their current companies, leaders must work to ensure they are not at a disadvantage should they decide to have children. In order to promote gender equality in the workplace, there are certain steps a business should take:

1. Increase flexibility

A lack of flexible jobs has emerged as "a key cause" of the lower levels of women in senior positions and the gender pay gap, according to figures from Close the Gap. Naturally, working mothers seeking flexible jobs but unable to find such opportunities, are forced to turn to part-time jobs or lower paid work below their skill level in order to make ends meet. If we are to solve the gender equality puzzle throughout British businesses, we must promote more flexible working styles: job sharing, flexitime and remote working, there are plenty of options for leaders to consider.

2. Consider rewriting your job ads

Research from Working Families suggests that six out of 10 women consider their childcare responsibilities before applying for a promotion or a new job. However, in too many cases, job descriptions fail to state whether or not the position allows for flexible working hours. In turn, a large portion of qualified women hold back on job applications for fear that their family life would not be compatible with the demands of a particular role. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Instead, employers should change their recruitment practices and revise the language used in job descriptions to ensure that women feel comfortable discussing the possibility of flexible working options with their prospective managers.

3. Explicitly welcome female applicants

Particularly in male-dominated industries such as construction and engineering, employers must do more to help women feel welcome in the company. This goes beyond altering the language used in a job description to considering your employer brand on a whole. In order to achieve gender equality, employers aren’t encouraged to hire women to fill a quota - rather, they are under pressure to build a welcoming culture throughout their company, one that attracts skilled individuals of any gender.

4. Conduct equal pay reviews

While the recent deadline for publishing pay gap data only applied to firms of a certain size, the Equality Act 2010 gives a right to equal pay between women and men for equal work.

Employers in the UK are therefore responsible for providing equal pay and ensuring that pay systems are transparent. Conducting regular reviews will help you to monitor your progress and eliminate gaps that exist on the premise of gender alone. The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provides detailed equal pay review (audit) toolkit for employers to use in determining the discrepancy between male and female pay in the workplace.

For 20 years, the Allen Associates team has been helping employers in Oxfordshire secure the talent they really need. Can we help you? Click here for more information.

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