5 April 2017

Has the public sector already got the equal pay “T” shirt?

Q. Our pay structure is based on a job evaluation scheme that was agreed by the trades unions, so our gender pay gap should be zero, shouldn’t it?

A. Equal pay and the gender pay gap are not the same. Even if your pay structure is underpinned by a job evaluation scheme, which ensures that men and women are paid equally if they have similar roles or do work deemed to be of equal value, your gender pay gap may not be as low as you think.

The gender pay gap is not just caused by men and women receiving different pay for doing the same or similar job roles, or work of equal value; it focuses upon the different experiences that men and women face in the workplace which contribute to the pay gap.

There are three main causes of the gender pay gap;

  1. Occupational or job segregation – where men and women traditionally do different types of work or where women tend to cluster at more junior grades within the organisation;
  1. Lack of flexibility – women tend to be the main carer and therefore find it hard to balance work and home life; and
  1. Pay structures – where structures can have a different impact upon men and women and are not underpinned by a robust system ie negotiation of starting salary.

Having developed a robust pay structure underpinned by a job evaluation scheme, you should have a head-start, because you will have considered pay rates, length of grades, application of overtime rates and bonuses and salary progression, addressing the third cause above.

A few steps towards your action plan:

  1. Occupational segregation – women and men tend to work in gender-segregated occupations and sectors – this can be because of stereotyping, the culture associated with different types of work, access to training and the value placed on traditionally male or female roles. Segregation limits choices for men and women and those roles more likely to be done by women are also associated with low pay and limited progression ie catering, cleaning, caring etc.

Employers who consider actions to address stereotyping, such as paying the ‘living wage’, supporting women’s access to training and progression from one type of job role to another, as well as presentation of recruitment and promotional opportunities can make a real difference.

  1. Flexible working – women are more likely than men to have caring responsibilities for children, sick relatives or older people. Women often seek part-time work to meet those responsibilities, and that work is often in low paid, stereotypical female job roles so they are under-employed and their skills are lost to the wider economy.

Employers who build flexible working practices into their HR strategy increase the recruitment, retention and development of their workforce and especially retain the knowledge, skills and experience of women returning from maternity leave.

  1. The ‘glass ceiling’ – women tend to work at lower levels than men; they are discouraged from applying for senior roles due to lack of role-models, cultures which embrace presenteeism, “old boy networks” which reduces access to mentoring and networking opportunities, perceived lack of work-life balance in senior roles, and recruitment and selection processes which lack transparency.

Employers who consider ways in which the workplace culture, access to networking and mentoring, and how recruitment is managed will be able to start to attract more women into senior roles.

For more advice on how to reduce your gender pay gap, contact Elaine Fisher, a Job Evaluation, Pay Structure and Reward specialist and a Partner (non-solicitor) at Harrison Clark Rickerbys and Director of Eagle HR, its sister business, at efisher@hcrlaw.com and on 01905 746446.

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About the Author
Jenny Okafor-Jones, Partner (Barrister), Head of Employment & Immigration Team
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