“Gender pay gap reporting has now been in place for around five years and companies with 250 or more employees are obliged to report their gender pay gap; namely the difference between what a man is paid on average per hour and what a woman is paid on average per hour within that organisation, irrespective of their job role. Despite its intention, this doesn’t always give an accurate representation of the level of gender pay equality – or equal pay – within an organisation, which is a different issue to the gender pay gap.
It has been unlawful to pay people performing the same or similar work differently based on gender for decades. However, commentators agree that lack of transparency regarding pay; organisationally, nationally and personally is a real barrier to understanding whether there is real equality of terms for the same work across the genders. It is this which the government was trying to overcome by introducing the regulations regarding gender pay gap reporting.
So, how can equal pay be both understood and achieved? Is transparency the answer? In part, it probably is. But it’s not the full picture and being transparent about pay doesn’t overcome other factors at play, such as the uneven distribution of “unpaid work” preventing women engaging more fully in paid work and workers in lower paid sectors, such as care, being largely women. And given that the gender pay gap still stands at somewhere between 14 – 15%, there is clearly still a long way to go.
However, there are ways that the pay gap can be tackled at an organisational level. For example, advertising a job with its pay and benefits from the outset, rather than stating that salary is “negotiable” and confirming pay at the offer stage would avoid any gender bias over pay. Being open both internally and externally regarding a particular role and what it attracts in terms of salary and benefits – and even addressing openly from the outset the basic issues such as how maternity benefits, flexible working arrangements and shared parental leave work in practice – can massively help to level the playing field. Dealing with the questions that someone looking at your organisation is often scared to ask could be the deciding factor in whether someone wants to work for your organisation.
It has also been suggested by HR experts that interviewers should consider asking interviewees the qualities they would bring to the role; and consider NOT asking them what they are currently being paid. If a candidate is coming from a low-paying organisation, or is returning from maternity leave, a career break or a period of part-time working, preserving such terms can simply exacerbate the gender pay gap. If a salary for a role is in line with the value it brings to a business, and is not dependent upon what someone was paid beforehand, then an organisation can leave pay disparity at its doors and is more likely to achieve equal pay and equality in terms.”