Karen Thomson: Would more flexible parental leave end reward inequality?

Although many of the government’s proposals are geared towards ending inequality in the workplace, theory versus practice is another matter. The measures assume fathers will want to take more responsibility in caring for their offspring and, with improved legislation to help them, it assumes fathers will actually take leave and request flexible working.

The principle of changing the UK culture of flexible working is welcome, but the proof of the pudding will be whether it materialises. To find out where there are pay gaps, employees need to know what their colleagues earn. Local authorities and the public sector have pay scales and this is, on the whole, a fair and transparent system. The private sector, however, tends not to operate such schemes and it becomes more difficult to understand whether an employer is discriminating on the grounds of gender or for some other reason.

One could argue that where a woman has taken time out for her children, she enters the workplace on less pay than a male counterpart, but then her experience may be less than that male counterpart. This may seem unfair in respect of pay arrangements if they are doing the same job, but there has to be some flexibility for the employer to reward staff based on achievement and experience.

We are disappointed that the working group the government has set up to look at these proposals does not include the CIPP – and therefore the payroll profession – because any amendments to the four pieces of legislation will require payroll input if they are to ensure employees are paid accurately and on time.

Karen Thomson is associate director of policy, research and strategic visibility at the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals (CIPP)