Employers Encouraged not to Lose Sight of Gender Equality Amid Crisis

Career Climbers / 7th May 2020

Gender pay gap reporting has been suspended in the UK due to the “unprecedented uncertainty and pressure” faced by companies due to the Covid-19 crisis. Although the reporting is not mandatory this year, the issue of gender-pay inequality persists. As the IFS reveals, women are likely to be disproportionality affected by the economic fallout of the current crisis, and it is vital that employers do not lose sight of the significance of pay disparity.

A study by think tank Autonomy found that over one million of the jobs with the highest risk of Corona virus exposure pay poverty wages, and a staggering 98% of workers in high-risk jobs that are being paid poverty wages are women. Unequal pay has been in the spotlight over the last few years and remains a serious problem, with women paid on average 17.3% less than men, a figure that has improved only marginally in recent years.

Not only are women more likely to be in lower-paying jobs, but some of the primary sectors impacted by the crisis, such as travel and hospitality, have higher numbers of female employment. For families with children now at home, unpaid childcare labour will also increase significantly.

These compounding factors mean it is likely that the gender pay gap will widen, and employers should not ignore this within their own organisations, or risk alienating their workforce post crisis. A 2019 ADP research study revealed that employee tolerance of the pay gap between men and women is wearing thin, with over two-thirds of employees (68%) saying they would consider looking for another job if they found out there was an unfair gender pay gap at their organisation.

While employees may not act during the crisis, the way companies approach gender pay equality during the crisis will play a role in future staff retention and business success.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP UK, commented: “Our research shows that workers’ attitude towards inequality is changing, especially when it comes to the gender pay gap. Employees are prepared to vote with their feet, risking severe engagement, performance and reputational issues for the companies concerned. Although job security is likely top of mind at the present moment, employers should consider the future consequences of side-lining gender pay gap reporting and must continue to work towards achieving pay equity in their organisations.

“Despite widespread calls for change, the gender pay gap appears deeply ingrained in workplaces in the UK, and the best way to move the needle is to approach it from a social, political and organisational perspective. Communities, the government, and companies need to work together to redefine gender roles in society; provide policies that nurture and prepare women for positions of power; and businesses should design a workplace that works for everyone and ensure that women are getting a fair chance to progress in their career.” 

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