The gender pay gap


Anni Hollings
Learning & Development Manager
- Strategi Solutions Group


The BBC has announced that it is going to cap the pay of its News Readers at £320K. We can all give a big sigh of relief as the discrepancies between George and Fiona, Huw and Rita and others in the team are ironed out in one management decision. Jolly good. Last week several prominent male BBC presenters said that they were willing to take a pay cut to achieve parity with their female colleagues – interestingly it didn’t seem to go that the female presenters would take a pay rise to achieve parity, a parallel universe perhaps? The collective salaries of the top four male BBC presenters totalled £5.5million whilst the collective take home of the top four female BBC presenters was less than a third of that at £1.75m. Such obvious discrepancies could/should(?) lead the BBC to face legal action and yet the question remains: why, nearly 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed are women still paid less than men? It is even suggested that parity in real terms will not be achieved for another 60 years. Sadly, the issues surrounding parity are far more wide reaching than ‘simply’ getting equally paid.

For most women (and men) the salaries that are quoted from the BBC are the salaries that many dream of and keep us paying into the lottery, or getting drawn into gambling, in the hope of winning the big one. But the consequences of unequal pay are far reaching, especially as we grow older. Pensions are based on salary and contributions, and the simple fact is, if you don’t pay in as much, you don’t get as much. Disparity is something that remains as women enter retirement and find their pension pots are less than their male counterparts. Other factors too have an impact, such as the decision to care for elderly relatives, which often falls to female members of the family. Whilst reducing the burden on the NHS by caring for relatives at home, the decision to leave the workforce has consequences for those women whose contributions to their pensions are reduced. Childcare costs are also a major issue and many women take themselves out of the labour force to raise their children before trying to return to work rather than pay prohibitive childcare costs. The chance of expecting help from previous sources, such as parents, diminishes as they too are locked either in work or caring for their parents.

Post-work pension disparity is a major concern and is not only caused by pay disparity, it is life choices that also have an uneven impact on women. Equal pay will not be the panacea for the disparity in post-work living, equal pay relates to in-work experience and decisions to leave the workforce for periods of time lead to unequal opportunity. The chances to ‘catch-up’ are similarly unequally distributed leaving many women unable to earn as much as their male colleagues as they find careers and therefore earnings potential curtailed. Women in the workplace and employers face attempting to solve a miserable conundrum and one that has remained stubbornly unresolved for decades and is likely to remain for many more. Unequal opportunity in the workplace leading to differences in career progression also impacts on the gender pay gap, which organizations with 250 or more employees are required to report. With just about two months to go before reporting must take place, less than 10% of companies have submitted their report.

The gender pay gap differs from equal pay. Whilst equal pay deals with the pay differences between men and women who carry out the same jobs, similar jobs or work of equal value, making it unlawful to pay people unequally because they are a man or a woman, the gender pay gap shows the differences in the average pay between men and women. A particularly high gender pay gap could be indicative of a number of issues to deal with, and the individual calculations may help to identify what those issues are. As highlighted earlier, the gender pay gap may include unlawful inequality but it is equally likely to identify issues to do with women bunching in lower paid jobs. Despite very few organizations having submitted their report so far, the CIPD is suggesting that gender pay gap reporting is having a largely positive effect in highlighting different issues of inequality and getting the conversations into the open which, in itself, must be to the benefit of future workplace relations.

If you want to read more on how to go about reporting the gender pay gap see ACAS or the CIPD publications.

And if you have any concerns about gender pay reporting please get in touch with one of our HR Team.