Shake up of working culture and practices recommended to reduce pay gaps

All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, and greater support should be given to fathers to play more of a role in child care, in a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said today. The call comes as the Commission’s strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps is released. A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government, in society and in our businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. According to the EHRC, offering all jobs as flexible will remove the barriers faced by women and disabled people, who are more likely to have to negotiate flexible working or accept part-time jobs that are often low-paid. Creating work places with flexible cultures will increase opportunities for everyone, giving people greater choice about the role they play both at work and home.

Giving fathers extra ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave paid at the right level will encourage more men to ask for flexible working, reducing the ‘motherhood penalty’ that many women face after having children and increasing the opportunities for them to progress. This would follow a successful model adopted in Scandinavian countries.
Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top. Yes, female representation is important but tackling pay gaps is far more complicated than that. While there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow. We need radical change now otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades to come.

“The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of the work we still need to do to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths. These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression. For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.”

As well as pressing for flexible working to be encouraged in all jobs at all levels, the strategy also urges governments, their agencies and employers to:

  • unlock the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships
  • improve work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live by investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise
  • encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities by making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare
  • increase diversity at all levels and in all sectors by encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay and introducing a new national target for senior and executive management positions

report on progress towards reducing pay gaps by extending reporting to ethnicity and disability and collecting annual statistics
The strategy is supported by the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date of pay gap data and the drivers behind them. It highlights the complex causes of pay gaps, often missed out of debates that focus only on the headline figures. Current figures calculate the gender pay gap at 18.1 percent, the ethnic minority pay gap at 5.7 percent and the disability pay gap at 13.6 percent, but the statistics alone are only part of the story and comparing them to each other can be unhelpful in identifying and tackling the causes of pay gaps for different groups.

The research reports some figures and differences within groups, including:

Ethnicity pay gaps

Several ethnic minorities have high proportions of people being paid less than the living wage. From 2011 to 2014, this was almost half of Bangladeshi men and around a third of Pakistani men. This compares with under a fifth of White British men. The largest ethnicity pay gaps are:

  • male Bangladeshi immigrants experienced the largest pay gap of 48 percent
  • Pakistani immigrant men experienced a 31 percent pay gap
  • Most female ethnic minority groups had a pay advantage over White British women. However:
  • female Bangladeshi immigrants and Pakistani immigrants both experienced around a 12 percent pay gap compared with White British women

Disability pay gaps

Those with physical impairments generally earn less than non-disabled people, but the pay gaps for men with neurological or mental health conditions are particularly large:

  • men with epilepsy experience a pay gap close to 40 percent and women with epilepsy have a 20 percent pay gap compared to non-disabled men and women respectively
  • men with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of around 30 percent whilst women with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of 10 percent

The research also highlights that women, disabled people and people from some ethnic minority groups are more likely to be paid below the living wage. This means that caution should be given to comparing sizes of pay gaps. For instance, the pay gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is smaller than the pay gap between disabled men and non-disabled men. This is because women in general are more likely to be paid less to begin with.

Sarah Kirk, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director, Page Group said: “Our strategic decision to shift our culture and become truly inclusive was driven by moral, ethical and commercial reasons. Our core Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are aligned with the Equality and Human Rights Commission strategy and we fully support the suggested recommendations to reduce pay gaps. We encourage flexibility across all levels and have a number of partnerships in place to ensure we are offering the right services to all employees across our business.”

Caroline Waters continued: “The inequalities in pay for ethnic minority groups and disabled people also need to be talked about. We’re launching this strategy to kick start the change we need. This includes action to tackle inequalities across the board, including those who are trapped in low pay who often get missed from the headlines.”

Responding to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s new strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, Dr Jill Miller, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser at the CIPD said: “The EHRC’s recommendations on the changes needed to address pay gaps in Britain are timely for many businesses who are preparing to report on their gender pay gaps. We welcome the breadth of their new strategy, Fair opportunities for all, which looks at gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps, and agree a greater focus on flexible working opportunities across the labour market would enable disadvantaged groups to both ‘get in’ and ‘get on’ in work. While the right to request flexible working is available to all UK workers who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks, it is yet to be recognised as such in practice. To make flexible working the norm it’s crucial that organisations challenge assumptions of who it is for and encourage far greater uptake. HR professionals have a critical role in questioning workplace cultures and busting the myths around what flexible working means to encourage businesses to act differently. Through recognition that flexibility is not just about the hours people work and challenging traditionally rigid job design, organisations can create ‘people-shaped jobs’ that enable those with a range of circumstances to access and reach their potential at work, while boosting long-term productivity.”