Gender Pay Gap Will Take 45 Years To Close; What Can We Do To Bridge The Gap Now?

Gender Pay Gap Will Take 45 Years To Close; What Can We Do To Bridge The Gap Now?
Photo Credits - Tim Mossholder via Unsplash

It will take 45 years for the gender pay gap to close in the UK. This is according to a new report published by PwC. Read on to learn about the results of PwC’s analysis, mandatory reporting, and how employers can bridge the gap.

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Gender Pay Gap Only Reduced by 1.6% Since 2017

The PwC’s Mandatory UK Gender Pay Gap Report for 2023-2024 was published earlier this month. At first glance, the report appears positive, with the hourly pay gap between genders falling from 12.2% to 11.8% and from 9.2% to 9.1% for the mean and median averages, respectively.

However, the report also revealed that, since 2017, the average gap has only reduced by 1.6%. On this basis, it will take 45 years for the gap in the UK to close completely. This means that women entering the workforce may suffer from the gap for the rest of their working lives.

Read: The Gender Pay Gap Persists: Over 2 Million Women in the UK Earn Below the Real Living Wage

Diversity, equity and inclusion consulting director at PwC, Katy Bennett, has spoken about the importance of employers driving change to achieve the reduction of reporting data. She said, “By truly understanding any barriers that exist within the workforce and embracing pay transparency, organisations can navigate the reporting landscape and use it as a way to shape their narrative, as opposed to letting it dictate it.”

Charles Cotton, senior reward advisor at CIPD, has emphasised the benefits this will also have for businesses. He stated, “Pay gap reporting is crucial for ensuring a fair workplace and offers clear business benefits, such as attracting and retaining talent by demonstrating a commitment to best practices.”

Mandatory Reporting: Key Requirements and Penalties

Under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017, all UK public, private, and voluntary sector companies with 250 employees or more must submit yearly reports on their gender pay gap. Such reports must be made on a specific “snapshot” date, this being within a year of 31 March for most public authorities and 5 April for other employers.

The data must be submitted on the government’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting Service website. For employers in the private and voluntary sectors, the report must be verified by a statement from a director and signed to that effect. Following submission, the data will become publicly accessible on the government’s Viewing Service website. In addition, an organisation’s report must be published on its website to be publicly accessible and remain there for at least three years.

Failure to submit the data or reporting it incorrectly would constitute a breach of the Equality Act 2010. This may result in the imposition of an action or penalty by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (“EHRC”). These may include warning notices, investigations and assessments, and statutory compliance notices, which may then progress to court orders and, potentially, an unlimited fine.

What Can Employers Do to Reduce the Gap?

Many factors contribute to the gender pay gap. Some are social and structural, such as the common view that women should be the primary carers in a family. However, others relate more to government and employer intervention, and employers can influence these to an extent. Whilst gender pay reporting has been compulsory for employers with at least 250 employees since 2017, this doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

One potential step for employers is to promote transparency concerning pay and promotions. Ensuring that these processes are transparent and accessible to all whilst putting in place structured recruitment procedures which are skills-based will lessen unconscious biases and promote equality in the workplace. Actual and potential employees should also be encouraged to negotiate on salary during the promotion or recruitment process. As men are statistically more likely to do this than women, such encouragement could help to reduce the gap.

Read: Gender Pensions Gap Highlighted by New Research

Supporting parental leave for men could also help to lessen the gender pay gap. Whilst men are entitled to parental leave under UK law, this is often not reflected in employers’ attitudes. This frequently results in women feeling pressured to reduce their hours or leave work altogether to care for their children.

Supporting Parental Leave for Men Can Lessen the Gender Pay Gap
Although UK law entitles men to parental leave, employer attitudes often don't reflect this, pressuring women to reduce their hours or leave work to care for children.

A related consideration for closing the gap relates to flexible working. Remote working provides working parents with greater flexibility and often enables them both to continue working whilst sharing parental duties. The Fawcett Society’s chief executive, Jemima Olchawski, encourages this, stating, “Making flexibility the norm will make it easier for women to get the flexibility they need and normalise men taking on their fair share of caring responsibilities.”

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