If you’re a woman reading this…
… could you use your time better if you stopped and instead flicked through the job vacancies at Channel 5, Unilever UK or Ocado?
Why do I ask this, and why them?
The answer is that they are 3 of the very few companies (just 14% of larger employers) that have a gender pay gap figure in favour of women.
April 2018 was the first time that large (250 employees or more) private and public sector employers were required to make public their gender pay gap figures.
By the time the deadline had passed at midnight on 4 April more than 10,000 employers had published this data.
Nobody was surprised to learn that men are paid more than women. The figures show that 3/4 of large employers pay their male employees more. There is not a single sector where women can expect to be paid more than (or even the same as) men.
We’ve known for a long time that what women get paid, or rather don’t get paid, is an issue. The Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970 so has a claim as the oldest employment related legislation on the books (now incorporated into the Equality Act 2010).
But be careful before jumping to conclusions. The aim of Equal Pay legislation is to ensure women are paid the same as men if they are carrying out work of equal value. However the gender pay gap data does not measure this. Instead, it reveals the salary gap between men and women based on median pay.
In other words if the men and women working at Ryan Air (a company that reported one of the largest gender pay differences) stood in separate lines in order of salary, the woman in the middle of her line earns 71.8% less than the man in the middle of his.
So the gender pay gap data says more about the preponderance of women in part time work and of men in more senior positions than it does about whether employers are breaking the law on equal pay.
So before you resign and apply to work at Unilever UK you need to factor in that their figures reflect the number of men in lower paid manufacturing jobs. Ryan Air’s gender pay gap (albeit high even for the aviation industry) is also evidence of the fact that only 8 of its 554 highly paid pilots are women compared to 2/3 of its cabin staff.
Employers will have to publish the same information this time next year (and every year thereafter) so we should be able to monitor their progress, or lack of it.
However, 10% of large employers have still not complied with their obligations to publish data. Commentators are also concerned that the ECHR does not have sufficient resources or powers to force reluctant employers to publish or punish them if they refuse (although its first investigation is apparently due to start in June 2018).
The system may not be perfect and the figures only reveal part of a complex picture, but no other country has initiated such a comprehensive data collection exercise on this issue.
The CEO of the Fawcett Society (which describes itself as the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights) sees gender pay gap reporting as a “game changer” no less because it forces employers to look at themselves and understand their organisations and it prompts employees to ask some hard questions”.
The Equality Act in 2010 made it difficult for employers to enforce the (once common) contractual provisions designed to prevent employees from discussing pay. With gender pay gap data easily accessible and the higher media profile being given to such issues, employers need to be prepared to have far more conversations with their (usually female) employees questioning their pay when compared with colleagues of the opposite sex.
Those conversations may not be easy for the employer. Just ask the BBC.
In the meantime the rest of us will be watching Ryan Air…