Pay Gaps: Shake-up of culture and working practices needed

The Equality & Human Rights Commission has called for a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps.

Its specific advice includes advertising all roles as suitable for flexible working and supporting working fathers to play a greater role in child care.

Fair Opportunities for All: A Strategy to Reduce Pay Gaps in Britain makes a number of recommendations as part of a comprehensive approach to tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

The strategy also urges the government, employers and their agencies to unlock education’s real earning potential by addressing differences in subject career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships. It recommends investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise to improve working conditions, and enabling employers to increase diversity by tackling bias in recruitment, promotion and pay. This would be aided by a new national target for senior and executive management positions.

The strategy is based on detailed and comprehensive analysis of the complex cause of pay gaps carried out by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. That research identifies the current gender pay gap as 18.1%, the ethnic minority pay gap at 5.7% and the disability pay gap at 13.6%.

The University of Essex research contains startling figures and surprising differences within groups, including that several ethnic minorities have high proportions of people being paid less than the living wage.  For example, from 2011-14, those figures were almost half of Bangladeshi men and a third of Pakistani men. Bangladeshi immigrants experienced the largest pay gap of 48%.

In contrast, most female ethnic minority groups had a pay advantage over white British women, experiencing a 12% pay gap in comparison.

Within disability pay gaps, men with epilepsy experience a pay gap of close to 40% while women with the same condition have a 20% pay gap compared to non-disabled men and women respectively. Men with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of around 30% while women with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of 10%.

The fact that the research also highlights that women, disabled people and those from some ethnic minority groups are likely to be paid below the living wage means comparing sizes of pay gaps should be treated with caution: for example, while the pay gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is smaller than that between disabled men and non-disabled men, this is because more women in general are paid less to begin with.

The strategy recommends creating work places with flexible cultures to increase opportunities for everyone, giving people greater choice about the role they play both at work and home.

Giving fathers additional ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave, paid at the right level, will encourage more men to ask for flexible working, reduce the ‘motherhood penalty’ that many women face after having children, and increase the opportunities for them to progress. This is a model already successful in Scandinavian countries.

Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top. We need radical change now otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades.

“The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of the work we still need to do to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths. These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression. For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.”


Thursday, 17 August 2017

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