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The Gender pay gap: the current state of play

by Sellick Partnership | 2 April 2019

In April 2018 public and private sector businesses across the UK were asked to publish their gender pay data for the first time to try and close the gender pay gap once and for all, a move that I hoped would help eradicate pay inequalities for good. But has it?

Under the new regulations, private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees have to calculate their gender pay gap on 5 April each year, publishing their data on the Government’s gender pay gap reporting service by 4 April the following year. For public sector organisations, the snapshot date is 31 March, so the data has to be published no later than 30 March the following year.

In this blog, we take a look at what impact the new Gender Pay Gap Reporting has had, and what the current state of play is across the UK.

The gender pay gap is an issue still rife across the majority of all business sectors in the UK. It is a vast and complicated issue that should not be occurring in the 21st century. Even the Gender Pay Reporting that was introduced last year has failed to stop some businesses paying their female employees less than their male counterparts. As a specialist HR recruiter this is something that greatly saddens me. Taking into account how far we have come in so many aspects of our lives it is upsetting that we are still in this situation today. From incredible achievements like women winning the right to vote and the countless laws around diverse and protected characteristics such as LGBT, disability and ethnicity, it still surprises me that some of our biggest and most loved organisations can still pay women less than men. 

Gender pay inequality, and gender pay in the workplace is evident in all industries and sectors across the globe. In the UK, it has been almost half a century since female Ford machinists went on strike to demand equal pay for equal work and yet, in 2017, the national average gender pay gap for all workers was still 18.4 percent according to the Office for National Statistics. In an effort to address pay inequality, the government introduced the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations last year which required employers with 250 or more employees to publish gender pay information by 4 April 2018. However, significant gaps quickly became apparent from this data. For example, it was reported that the hourly rate of pay for female employees at EasyJet is 51.7 percent lower than their male counterparts, which is almost unforgivable in today’s modern climate.

Despite these revelations there are still no regulations or any penalties under the new system, or any full proof way of auditing the information published under the new system. It is unlikely that the proposed enforcement strategy from the Equality and Human Rights Commission would have a significant impact on effectively enforcing the regulations or result in penalties being issued. Neither is there any way to deal with the pay inequality the information reveals – it is left to employers to voluntarily 'do the right thing' or to individual employees to bring equal pay claims. Yet the information provided will not give sufficient detail to assist most women with such claims even if something may be wrong. Gender Pay Gap Reporting is clearly supporting a movement which is determined to shine a spotlight on the inequalities between men and women in the workplace, but it is not enough to bring about the change that is needed to achieve gender equality in our time.

I firmly believe it is time for employers to step in and make some real changes that could go some way in eradicating gender pay inequality once and for all. The first, and most important way we can do this is by creating truly inclusive workplaces where women have the opportunity to deliver, perform and progress. This may seem like a simple suggestion, but it is surprising how many organisations do not have the provisions in place to create such a culture. Businesses should be introducing adequate maternity provisions, processes to support women returning to work and offering flexible working schemes to all employees as a bare minimum.

The government should also take stock and do more to close the gap once and for all. We should have stricter sanctions, and organisations should be held more accountable for their actions. That way Gender Pay Gap Reporting could be used as data to enforce regulations, and companies that are deliberately paying female workers less could be forced to analyse their current pay structure. That all being said, we are in a much better place now than we were ten or so years ago, and I would hope there is now a light at the end of the tunnel. More and more businesses are taking action, and changing the way they work which is very positive, however more still needs to be done.

Do you think you are being underpaid and thinking about a new role in HR? Get in touch with me or a member of the HR recruitment team today and find out if I can help. Or, check out my latest HR jobs here.

Alternatively, you can find out how Sellick Partnership compare with our own Gender Pay Gap report here!