Employers encouraged not to lose sight of gender equality amid crisis

Over two-thirds of UK workers would look for another job if there was an unfair gender pay gap at their company.

Mandatory gender pay gap reporting has been suspended in the UK due to the “unprecedented uncertainty and pressure” that companies are facing due to the COVID-19 crisis. But while reporting on the gender pay gap is not required this year, the issue of gender pay inequality persists, says payroll and HR software specialists the ADP.

According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, women are likely to be disproportionality affected by the economic fallout of the current crisis, making it 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 COVID-19 exposure pay poverty wages, and a staggering 98% of workers in said jobs are women. Unequal pay has been in the spotlight over the last few years and remains a key issue, with women still being paid on average 17.3% less than men in the UK, a figure that has only improved slightly in recent years.

How COVID-19 impacts the gender pay gap

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 increase significantly as well – a majority of which will fall on women.

These factors make likely that the gender pay gap could widen post-COVID-19, similarly to the 2008 financial crisis. If employers chose to ignore this, they could risk alienating their workforce, as a 2019 ADP research study revealed that 68% of employees say they would consider looking for another job if they found out there was an unfair gender pay gap at their organisation.

What employers should do about it

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 a 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.”

However, as the Government has suspended mandatory pay gap reporting, it is up to companies to take it upon themselves to design a workplace that provides equal pay for equal work.

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