The Equal Pay Act 1970. Hard fought for legislation.
Thanks to its enactment we no longer have the appalling situation where two people can work side by side doing the same work but receiving different pay for no reason other than their gender. But of course when it comes to gender and pay, this is only a very small part of the story. The legislation inched us part way along what is a very long journey.
Another step in that journey is coming. Mandatory gender pay gap reporting on an organisational basis.
What drives a pay gap?
So many factors. Interconnected, multi-faceted, conscious and unconscious.
It is made up of the women who return to work in lower level jobs after having a family, just so that they can balance children and work. It is the maternity penalty from the years of missed pay reviews and opportunities whilst having children. It is unconscious bias. It is old fashioned prejudice when it comes to hiring and promotion and development opportunities. It is made up from those organisations where the upper layers of the hierarchy are filled with men and where the least paid jobs are occupied by women. It is because more women work part-time and that is where the gap goes from big to shocking. It is because women still do the bulk of the childcare and take the majority of all family related leave. It is because of the fundamental undervaluing of the work undertaken by women in our society.
The reporting requirement holds a mirror up to the problem. Will make us address the dirty little secret in our organisations. Will stop us hiding conveniently behind the idea that because we pay men and women the same pay for doing the same job then we don’t have a gender pay gap problem.
Because the requirement is to report on averages. It is undoubtedly a blunt tool, perhaps deliberately so. Women and men separated into just two simple groups. No hierarchy, no segmentation, no categorisation. Just averages. Mean and median. Who gets a bonus and who does not. Who is in the upper pay quartile and who is in the bottom.
We exist in a transparent world. The information on your pay gap will need to be available on your website for all to see. And you can sure it will be mentioned on Glassdoor before you can say ‘work of equal value’.
It will impact upon your hiring. Your employer brand. Your reputation with employees, customers and suppliers. And whilst the government might not have bothered to include any sanctions for non-compliance, this is where the pressure for change really lies.
But there aren’t the only reasons to make public organisational pay gaps. Because pay shouldn’t be determined by what is in your underwear. Because we are half the population. Because it is 2016.
Gender pay gap reporting. It is going to lift the covers. Apparently, the Equalities Office reckons that two thirds of employers currently monitor their pay gap. I don’t know where they got their evidence, but my common sense tells me this simply isn’t true. Who is really looking, today, when there is no requirement to do so?
Gender pay gap reporting. Only time will tell what the consequences will be, what change it might drive.
But it is time.