Seven in 10 organisations see closing the gender pay gap as a priority

Approximately seven in 10 (69%) organisations view closing their gender pay gap as either a high or medium priority, an 8% increase on the previous year, according to research by the Government Equalities Office (GEO).

The research took place from July to October 2018 and fed into two reports: Employers’ understanding of the gender pay gap and actions to tackle it – report on the 2018 survey, which interviewed more than 900 organisations with over 250 members of staff, and Employers’ gender pay hap action plans, which canvassed the views of 12 employers.

The GEO’s surveys also found that 67% of organisations are engaging in discussions at board-level, to find ways of closing the pay gap between their male and female employees.

Half (51%) of those treating their pay gap as a high priority stated that this was motivated by a desire to be fair and non-discriminatory. A fifth (20%) highlighted the potential impact on reputation as a motivating factor.

The research found a relatively even split between those organisations that had developed a formalised strategy for reducing their pay gap (34%), those that intended to take action but had not yet developed specific action plans (33%) and those that did not intend to take any action (30%).

Alongside this research, and in light of the fast approach of the reporting deadlines of 4 April for large private and voluntary sector organisations, and 30 March for those in the public sector, the GEO has released two pieces of guidance for employers.

Victoria Atkins, minister for women, said: “The gender pay gap is at its lowest level on record, but that is still not good enough if we want to achieve real gender equality in the workplace.

“Last year 100% of companies in scope reported their pay gap data, but they now need to take steps to put an end to this inequality. These steps include better engagement from senior leadership, more open conversation about why organisations have a gender pay gap and improving recruitment practices.

“We want employers to understand the causes of their gender pay gap and create action plans that will close those gaps for good.”

Eight ways to understand your gender pay gap, published in partnership with social purpose organisation The Behavioural Insights Team, provides advice on identifying potential areas for improvement. These might include discovering whether women tend to enter the business in lower paid positions, whether performance scores can be seen to differ in relation to gender, and whether part-time employees are given sufficient opportunity to advance.

Four steps to developing a gender pay gap action plan, produced in partnership with OMB Research, which also conducted the two surveys, aims to help organisations develop an effective strategy to reduce their pay gaps. It encourages employers to understand the causes of any pay gap they might have, work together with staff to develop a plan, and to give the strategy time to make a proper impact.

Dominie Moss, founder at executive return-to-work search organisation The Return Hub, said: “There’s no silver bullet when it comes to this issue, but it’s good to see the government coming up with practical advice. Helping [employers] identify the cause of the problem is a useful exercise, but closing the gap requires a three-pronged approach: hiring more women, promoting more women, and retaining more women. Rather than taking the necessary steps to address this, many employers are still tinkering around the edges.

“Our own research has shown that more than half of female City workers returning from a career break believe the sector isn’t interested in creating a diverse workforce. If [organisations] are serious about closing the gap, they need to dramatically rethink their hiring strategies, and the support offered to women throughout their career, particularly those returning from a break.”