Equal Pay: Hope for a better 2023?

The average pay disparity between men and women working in the UK has stretched to more than 8%

As we put 2022 behind us, it’s a good time to reflect on the last year and consider how we can build a brighter 2023. While, in many ways, change has been the only constant of the last few years, women’s progress towards equal pay remains stagnant.

As it stands, the Office of National Statistics found that the median gender pay gap for workers in the UK worsened in 2022 — widening to 8.3% (up from 7.7% in April 2021). Adding to this, a new analysis from Syndio reveals that across UK full-time workers, men are 65% more likely to be executives than women and 43% more likely to occupy management roles.

“The phrase slow and steady wins the race doesn’t apply to the gender pay gap, which remains virtually unchanged year-on-year,” reflects Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA at Skillsoft. “From the pandemic to the current economic crisis, the last few years have impacted working women disproportionately. They have taken the lion’s share of job losses, financial strain and childcare issues. These inequalities remain evident in this year’s pay gap figures.”

Equal Pay Day 2022, when women in the UK effectively began working for free for the remainder of the year, was on November 20th. This was a staggering 41 days before the end of the year and painted a visual marker of just how far we have to go before equality can be achieved.

Reporting matters

Against the tumultuous backdrop of a pandemic-struck Britain, the fight for pay equality fell to the wayside for many over the last few years – enabling companies to get away with gender-biased treatment. 2022 was the first year since the pandemic began that the reporting deadline hasn’t been suspended. However, many companies still failed to submit by the deadline.

Following this, in October, the Government discussed a move to “cut the red tape”, scrapping gender pay gap reporting for businesses with under 500 employees and putting the employment gains of the last few decades into further jeopardy.

“As UK recession fears loom, more needs to be done to help shift this balance for good,” urges Nowakowska. “Now is not the time to roll back measures designed to promote equal pay.”

So, with the new year here, what exactly can organisations take to create a more equal and fair workplace in 2023?

There’s no change without action

“We need to identify the obstacles that are stunting progress, which is so desperately needed,” argues Gianna Driver, Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) at Exabeam. “Although this can be a difficult subject to address, this day calls for women everywhere to share their experiences to raise awareness about inequalities many experiences regularly.

“One-way women can do this is to make sure their voices are heard within their workplace and share their feedback directly with those at the top whom we need to develop and enforce equal policies. Calling out such gender gaps, encouraging pay transparency, and holding senior members accountable will hopefully spark the change that continues to be badly needed in society today.

“Additionally, organisations can also do regular reviews of their pay and total rewards practices while paying specific attention to review data through the lens of DEI&B and ensure there aren’t disparate treatment practices accidentally occurring between groups of individuals.”

“Companies should review salaries across the organisation to ensure all employees, regardless of gender, are paid fairly based on experience and contribution,” Skillsoft’s Nowakowska adds.

“Equalising pay where needed will help close the gap and show proactivity and fairness around the issue. Analysing and publishing pay gap data will also help encourage greater accountability and understanding, helping organisations tackle long-standing biases or strategies that promote unfairness.

“Lastly, finding out why biases exist is vital to resolving the issues at hand. From unconscious bias training for decision-makers to developing a solid succession planning strategy to assessing how flexible work policies benefit working women, there are many ways to create a more equitable workplace.”

Overall, tackling the gender pay gap requires a long-term strategy. In 2023 and beyond, actual change will only be possible with continued effort.

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