Since 2017, it has been enshrined in law that businesses with 250 employees or more must publish their Gender Pay Gap figures within a detailed report. This highlights the average difference between men and women’s hourly earnings across full-time and part-time employees at all levels.
Gender Pay Gap reporting helps businesses understand and address the internal issues they may be having with gender diversity and encourage them to find ways to make meaningful change to close any gaps they may have. This could be through more inclusive application processes which use gender neutral language and therefore inspire more female candidates, or the creation and implementation of fairer and more flexible internal training to help women climb the career ladder as quickly and efficiently as their male counterparts.
Despite the law’s inception four years ago, it has only been in the last couple of years that it has truly begun to have an impact. This is due to extensive media coverage of those companies whose unequal gender pay has been exposed through the measures, and those influential companies who have broken laws by not reporting. For example, the make-up giant, Charlotte Tilbury, suffered huge reputational damage when it refused to report, and further criticism when it reported a mean difference of 25 per cent between men and women’s pay.
However, in March last year, it was decided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) that, due to the pressures of the pandemic, Gender Pay Gap Reporting was to be delayed by a year. This decision was met with uproar, with women everywhere unclear as to why their equality should be postponed in a time of crisis. Salt was rubbed in the wound when the reporting was delayed once again in February this year for another six months.
The crisis of the ‘shecession’.
This pandemic, and the subsequent recession we are witnessing, has had a disproportionate effect on women compared to men. Women’s earnings have declined, on average, by 12.9 per cent, and nearly half of women have reported a drop in income compared to men, who have reported relatively stable pay packets. Women who have also had to juggle work and childcare have been hit hard by the crisis, with a third reporting to have lost work or hours due to a lack of childcare.
This pandemic has meant that the progress made across women’s equality in the workplace has been slowed and, in some cases, reversed. The BBC reported that because of the reaction to coronavirus and the consequent delay of the Gender Pay Gap reporting, we are witnessing the clock on women’s equivalency being turned back by 25 years.
Progress across the UK has been slowed to such a pace that, if this were to continue post-pandemic, the Gender Pay Gap wouldn’t close until 2052, meaning women who are currently in their 30’s will never see equality in the workplace.
This all sends the wrong message about equality.
Over the past few years, we have thankfully seen the gender pay gap closing slowly but surely. In 2020, the last report made, the gap closed from 17.4 per cent to 15.5 per cent across all employees. While not perfect, and we still have a long way to go, it shows that the combination of the Gender Pay Gap report, extensive media coverage and the rallying of women, and men, fighting for equality, are all making their mark and driving much needed change.
However, the way the situation has been handled over the past year, sends out an incredibly damaging message to businesses, employers and individuals. By delaying the gender pay gap report at this time, the notion being sent out is that equality, fairness and women’s place at the top table is something that can be listened to, or ignored, at the flick of a switch. When the going gets tough, this issue can be shelved.
Of course, this isn’t and shouldn’t be the case. We should always be fighting for women’s equality, for their right to be treated on a level with their male counterparts and colleagues. Women should not have to choose between family and work, but to have both successfully.