Experts, including employment lawyers, HR professionals and campaigners, are warning that the Government’s new rules on gender pay reporting won’t do enough to tackle considerable financial inequality still overshadowing a multitude of industries.
From Thursday, companies employing more than 250 people will have 12 months to meet a deadline to publish their gender pay gap figures, but critics have said that the reporting won’t be granular enough to facilitate real change.
“As is stands, the reporting won’t reveal whether men and women are paid equally for doing the same or comparable jobs. It will simply show the mean and median difference in pay and bonus remuneration across a particular company,” says Suzanne Horne, an employment law partner at Paul Hastings.
Ms Horne says that the real problem lies in the fact that women are still underrepresented at senior levels.
“The reporting will tell us what we already know, whilst neglecting to consider the myriad of factors that legitimately differentiate pay such as levels of responsibility, nature of work, experience and geographical location to name but a few,” she says.
According to the Fawcett Society, one of the UK’s largest charities promoting women’s rights, women in Britain earn significantly less than men over their entire careers as a result of differences in caring responsibilities, clustering in low-skilled and low-paid work, the qualifications and skills women acquire, and outright discrimination.
The society says that the current overall gender gap for full-time workers is 13.9 per cent and that women are frequently still being paid less than men in the equivalent role, despite that being illegal.
According to the organisations statistics, 54,000 women are forced to leave their job early every year as a result of poor treatment after they have a child. And a total of 80 per cent of people in the low paid care and leisure sector are females.
Sophie Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, in a statement this week challenged the Government “to stop fiddling around the margins and build an economy that sees women”.
She said that the new rules coming into effect “will not be enough to close the gender pay gap” and that her party would require companies to publish pay data broken down by age, ethnicity and disability, in addition to gender.
Ms Walker said that her party would also extend this to businesses with more than 50 employees within three years.
“Tackling the complexity of the gender pay gap means going much further than the government’s current proposals and businesses should be leading the way,” she said.
Others have echoed those remarks.
“Although median and mean hourly pay provide useful comparisons of average earnings, they do not reveal differences in rates of pay for comparable jobs, which is the focus of the equal pay legislation,” says Clare Gregory, partner in the employment and pensions group at global law firm DLA Piper.
Elliott Silk, head of employee benefits at wealth management business Sanlam, says that the effectiveness of the new rules might also be hampered by technicalities.
“Many companies who are perceived to have 250 employees or more might not have to disclose this information as there may be multiple employing entities meaning that their individual businesses actually have less than this number of staff,” he says.
Beyond immediate annual compensation, Rose St Louis, a savings expert at insurance company Zurich, says that the regulations don’t address the huge pension shortfall that many women are projected to be facing when they retire.
Analysis of 250,261 workplace personal pension plans held with Zurich between 2013 and 2016 shows that last year— on average—men under the age of 35 received £217 more in employer pension contributions than women of the same age.
Extrapolated over the long run, the figures imply that women could face a pension shortfall of up to £47,000 by the end of their working lives, which is much greater than that faced by their male counterparts.
Ms St Louis says that the Government’s latest measures should help combat the issue of salary, “but better education and guidance must be available to employers and employees alike to tackle the systemic challenges”.
Not everyone is wholly pessimistic about the new rules though.
Sarah Henchoz, an employment partner at the law firm Allen & Overy, says that although the new regulations are “administratively complex” they are likely to achieve significant change.
“Credible research has established a link between greater financial performance and diversity, particularly within the senior leadership team. Where the gender pay gap results are challenging, an employer will undoubtedly want to implement a strategy to redress the balance and remove any barriers to women progressing to senior positions,” she says.
Sarah Churchman, head of diversity at professional services firm PwC says that although “simply reporting numbers won’t change things”, it is an “opportunity for organisations to understand what’s happening in their business and to take bold actions that drive to the heart of the issue”.
She says that this could include organisations creating more returnship programmes and setting targets for female representation at all levels.
Last month Vodafone said that within three years, it aims to hire 1,000 women who have been out of the workplace for several years, in most cases to raise a family.
Citing research that Vodafone commissioned from professional services firm KPMG, the telecom giant said that there are about 96 million skilled women between the ages of 30 and 54 on career breaks worldwide.
Of those, an estimated 55 million have experience at middle-manager level and above.
Google marks International Women's Day with 13 amazing women
Google marks International Women's Day with 13 amazing women
1/13 Ida Wells
An African-American journalist and activist born in Mississippi in 1862, she wrote prolifically on the fight for women’s suffrage as well as the struggle for civil rights. She documented the practice of lynching black people in the southern states showing how it was often used as means of controlling or punishing black people who competed with whites rather than as a means of “justice” for crimes.
2/13 Lotifa El Nadi
Egypt’s first female pilot born in 1907 in Cairo. Although her father saw no need for her to pursue secondary education, expecting her to marry and have a family, she rebelled and worked as a secretary and telephone operator at a flying school in exchange for lessons as she had no other means to pay for the training. Her achievements made headlines around the world when she flew over the pyramids and competed in international flying races.
3/13 Frida Kahlo
A Mexican painter and activist born in Mexico City in 1907, her work has been celebrated internationally as emblematic of Mexican national and indigenous traditions and by feminists for its honest depiction of female experience.
4/13 Lina Bo Bardi
A Brazilian architect, born in Italy in 1914, she devoted her life to the promotion of the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. She is also celebrated for her furniture and jewellery designs.
5/13 Olga Skorokhodova
A Soviet scientist born into a poor Ukranian peasant family in 1911, she lost her vision and hearing at the age of five. Overcoming these difficulties in a remarkable way, she became a researcher in the field of communication and created a number of scientific works concerning the development of education of deaf-blind children. She was also a teacher, therapist and writer.
6/13 Miriam Makeba
A South African singer and civil rights activist born in Johannesburg in 1932, she was forced to work as a child following her father’s death. She became a teenaged mother after a bried and allegedly abusive marriage at 17, before she was discovered as a singer of jazz and African melodies. After becoming hugely successful in the US and winning a Grammy, she became involved in the civil rights struggle stateside as well as in the campaign against apartheid in her home country, writing political songs. Upon her death, South African President Nelson Mandela said that “her music inspired a powerful sense of hope in all of us.”
7/13 Sally Ride
An American astronaut and physicist, she was born in Los Angeles in 1951 and joined NASA in 1978 after gaining her PhD. She became the first American woman and the third woman ever to go into space in 1983 at the age of 32. Prior to her first space flight, she attracted attention because of her gender and at press conferences, was asked questions such as, “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?” She later worked as an academic at the University of California, San Diego.
8/13 Halet Cambel
A Turkish archaeologist born in 1916, she became the first Muslim women to compete in the Olympics in the 1936 Berlin games as a fencer. She declined an invitation to meet Adolf Hitler on political grounds, and after the conclusion of the Second World War, she trained as an architect and later worked as an academic in Turkey and Germany.
9/13 Ada Lovelace
An English mathematician and writer born in 1815, she became the world’s first computer programmer. The daughter of poet George Byron, she is chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine, and was the first to recognise the machine had applications beyond pure calculation, creating the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.
10/13 Rukmini Devi
An Indian dancer and choreographer credited with reviving Indian classical dance, she was born in 1904 and presented her form of dance on stage even though it was considered “low” and “vulgar” in the 1920s. She features in India Today’s list of “100 people who shaped India” having also worked to re-establish traditional Indian arts and crafts and as an animal rights activist.
11/13 Cecilia Grierson
An Argentine physician, reformer born in Buenes Aires in 1859, she became the first woman in Argentina to receive a medical degree having previously worked as a teacher. Women were barred from entering medical school at the time, so she first volunteered as an unpaid lab assistant before she was allowed to train as a doctor. She was acclaimed for her work during a cholera epidemic before going on to found the first nursing school in Argentina. The harassment she experienced at mediacl school helped make her a militant advocate for women’s rights in Argentina.
12/13 Lee Tai-young
Korea’s first female lawyer and judge born in 1914 in what is now North Korea, she was also an activist who founded the country’s first legal aid centre and fought for women’s rights throughout her career. Her often mentioned refrain was, “No society can or will prosper without the cooperation of women.” She worked as a teacher, married and had four children before she was able to begin her legal career after the Second World War, becoming the first woman to enter Seoul National University. She also fought for civil rights in the country and was arrested in 1977 for her beliefs, receiving a three-year suspended sentence and a ten year disbarment.
13/13 Suzanne Lenglen
A French tennis champion born in 1899, she popularised the sport winning 31 championships and dominating the women’s sport for over a decade. She was the first female tennis celebrity and one of the first international women sports stars, overcoming a childhood plagued with ill health including chronic asthma – which continued to plague her in her adult life. At 15, she became the youngest ever winner of a major championship and lost only seven matches during her entire career. She received widespread criticism for her decision to turn professional, but defended her right to make a decent living in the days when the grand slam tournaments paid a relative pittance to the winners.
The value of the economic activity generated by bringing those women back into the workplace could be in the region of £151bn per year, the research shows. And in terms of earnings, the cumulative financial boost for the households of those women could be some £419bn a year, according to KPMG.
“Even if gender pay gap reporting doesn’t catapult companies into ‘setting things right’, it will certainly accelerate the conversation that started with the Equal Pay Law in 1970,” said Sumita Ketkar, a lecturer in leadership and professional development at Westminster Business School.
“A holistic approach is needed towards solving a problem of ‘mindsets’ that have been embedded in our social fabric for too long,” she said.
“With more stakeholders including men roped into the ‘feminism’ narrative, it may just be that good times lie ahead.”Reuse content