Opinion

We need pay transparency to progress gender equality

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If you’re a woman reading this, the chances are you are probably earning less money than the men around you.

Whether it’s due to factors like women working in industries that are paid less (like hospitality), part-time roles due to caring responsibilities, a lack of employer flexibility around where and when work happens or from outright discrimination, the fact is that women still earn less than men.

Charlotte Woodworth, Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community (BITC).

In November 2021 we saw Equal Pay Day, which marks the point in the year when on average, women stop earning relative to men.[1] With the gender pay gap now at 11.9 per cent, an increase from 2020, it is a sorry state that in one of the leading nations in the world, the average woman still earns less than her male colleagues. And it’s not just women that face a pay gap; disabled workers and employees of Black, Asian and Mixed race are also likely to have lower salaries.

Business in the Community (BITC) is supporting the Fawcett Society’s #EndSalaryHistory campaign, which calls for employers to stop asking for a history of previous earnings. This recruitment practice perpetuates a pay gap by ignoring the skills and experience of applicants. But by eliminating a request to see salary history, employers have a better chance of closing the pay gap for skilled workers.

The gender pay gap is a business issue, and it’s up to employers to fix. But a short-term solution won’t eliminate the problem. Businesses need to know how to avoid perpetuating the gender pay gap, and that starts with having transparency around pay.

A lack of transparency can impact not just the gender pay gap but can also lead to other under-represented groups experiencing unfair pay differences. To help correct this, BITC launched its Gender Pay Gap Reporting Dashboard, which allows users to track the UK gender pay gap across sectors and by employer.

We need employers to be open and transparent about their pay grades. They need to take a long hard look at how they pay different genders and understand what they can do to tackle the gender pay gap at work. We are asking employers to:

  • Be transparent around pay where possible, for example, by sharing pay package details while recruiting
  • Develop a clear salary framework and use salary bandings, to help provide consistency and fairness
  • Conduct gender and equal pay audits, considering whether roles of similar skills are being paid differently, and assessing any hourly discrepancy between the salaries paid to part-time and full-time workers
  • Mitigate any potential decision-maker bias, by training managers and HR professionals in unconscious bias, particularly ahead of any recruitment or salary reviews
  • Take a wider view of internal choices, for example, by introducing an organisation-wide dashboard to monitor pay rises and promotions by gender and ethnicity
  • Analyse and share information on pay ratios, gender pay gaps, ethnicity pay gaps, internally and externally (where possible). Develop gender action plans, detailing clear, targeted measures to tackle your gender pay gap
  • Speak to your male and female colleagues to understand the barriers they face to progression that may be keeping them in low paid or non-managerial roles
  • Use BITC’s Gender Pay Gap reporting dashboard to track your company’s progress against other employers and sectors
  • Support the Fawcett Society’s #EndSalaryHistory campaign by no longer asking applicants for their previous earnings

This situation needs to improve urgently, and pay transparency is one of the ways employers can help. By following these measures, we will start to see pay transparency, an end to salary history, adjustments to pay gaps and progress in gender equality at work.

We’re don’t expect employers to change the world overnight. But we are calling for business leaders to look at how they are paying the different genders and ask themselves whether this is fair.

Closing the gender pay gap isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon, and it starts by taking one step at a time. That’s why we’re asking employers to show their support with actions, not words. We need action, and we need it now.

Charlotte Woodworth is Gender Equality Director at Business in the Community (BITC).

Click here for information on BITC's work, campaigns and resources on gender equality at work. 

[1] This is representative of the mean, full-time, hourly gender pay gap taken from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE) – which this year sits at 11.9 per cent. A measure across all jobs in the UK, this should not be confused with mandatory UK Gender Pay Gap reporting legislation for organisations with 250 employers and over.

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