Home / Insights / Blog / Employment Law and the Gender Pay Gap

Employment Law and the Gender Pay Gap

Employment Law and the Gender Pay Gap

New research from the International Labour Organisation has found that the average global gender pay gap now stands at 23%. In the UK, it stands at 19.7%, effectively meaning that female employees in Britain stop earning anything in relation to men on November 4th each year. Furthermore, while the gap in gender pay had been narrowing in previous years, recent figures have shown a reversal as the gap for full-time workers also increased from 9.5% to 10% in 2012.

The Confederation of British Industry is now calling on the next UK government to set a national target to reduce this gap. Deputy director-general Katja Hall believes that, by doing so, it would highlight some of its possible causes, such as “the careers advice we give at school; a lack of flexible working in the workplace; a lack of support for women around maternity leave . . . and childcare”.

No difference in aspiration

Another explanation offered for the disparity is that there are more women than men in low-paid occupations; 63% of workers paid at or below the living wage of £7.65 are female. Noting this, Daisy Sands, head of policy at gender equality campaign group the Fawcett Society, comments “The question is, is that out of preference? There isn’t a difference in terms of aspirations between men and women if you look at school and university performance, or how they perform in the labour market in their 20s”.

Ms Sands cited a recent survey of 1,003 low-paid women conducted by the Society, which found that 22% had degree-level qualifications, with 37% describing themselves as “overqualified and over-skilled” for their current jobs. She said “Is it because having children simply meant their career aspirations fall by the wayside? That’s not what they were saying at all”.

Labour to push for gender equality

In a speech to activists at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Manchester, Gloria De Piero, the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said that a Labour government would legislate to make firms with over 250 workers disclose the average pay of men and women at each pay grade, citing figures which show that the lifetime gender pay gap averages at £219,135 in law, finance and journalism. She said “Equal pay isn’t just an issue for women. It’s an issue for families, for fathers and husbands too. We’re all poorer because women don’t have equal pay”.

The party also plans to help eliminate what Ms Sands calls “the motherhood penalty”, with working parents to be offered 25 hours of free childcare rather the current 15. Additionally, from 2015, mothers in the UK will be able to share 40 weeks of their 52-week entitlement to maternity leave with their partner, spreading the “burden” of childcare more equally.

However, Ms Sands adds that companies should not wait for the government to legislate on equal pay, commenting that “Flexible working, job-shares, part-time working, compressed hours, [and] homeworking” are all ways for them to make proactive moves to reduce the disparity before they are forced to do so by law. She concludes that “Internal pay audits, training on equality and diversity, having an open discussion about the issues – that’s where you will see change. Companies have to look inwards . . . If we just ignore it and accept it, we will see what we’re seeing now – a regression in the pay gap”.

At IBB Solicitors, we take a proactive approach to workplace issues, helping employers find the best possible outcome for their employment issues. We can also help advise on policy reviews. Our specialist employment lawyers place heavy emphasis on continuing personal training and development, to ensure that they always present you with the most up-to-date legal and practical advice available. Our expertise and experience has made us one of the most trusted and highly regarded employment law teams in the region. Our service ensures that you are fully aware of changes to employment law.

For advice on employment contracts and policies contact our employment team on 01895 207892. Alternatively email your details to employment@ibblaw.co.uk