Since 2017, any business with over 250 employees must report on the difference in average earnings between men and women. The reporting deadline for this year was 4th April 2019 and we now have data to allow a comparison on last years’ figures.
The news is not what many were hoping for. In 7% of UK firms there was no change at all and in 45% of UK firms we have seen the discrepancy in pay actually increased in favour of men.
The Fawcett Society, who campaign for gender equality, described the figures as “disappointing, but not surprising”. Indeed, the general opinion from businesses is that this is not a problem to be solved overnight. The government itself has described a 5 year plan and has produced documentation on its website to help businesses develop a gender pay gap action plan and recommended actions.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), has stated that “meaningful change will take time and concerted effort, with some changes potentially increasing gaps in the short term, such as employing more women at junior levels before they rise to more senior positions”.
Analysis seems to suggest that changing recruitment strategies has been a focus for many businesses, particularly by recruiting into male dominated roles. This will often result in an increased gender pay gap initially if roles are filled by women at entry level.
Narrowing the pay gap will take time but we can take comfort from the focus that has been put on the reporting requirements and that action plans are now being looked at seriously.
In August 2018, the parliamentary Business, Energy and Industry Strategy committee called for gender pay gap reporting to be widened to include all companies with more than 50 employees. To date, the committee’s recommendations have not been implemented.