The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the gender pay gap

What employees prioritise after the COVID-19 pandemic is changing, and the gender pay gap is widening along the way

Fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act, the gender pay gap, following COVID-19, is set to double from 13% to 25%, pausing all progress made.

Men’s salary expectations have increased since the outbreak of COVID-19 – growing from £40,500 in 2019 to £41,600 in 2020, according to a survey by Universum. The study by the employer branding specialist found that women’s salary expectations have dropped from £31,400 to £31,000.

The drop in female expectations could be due to mothers being more likely than fathers to leave employment during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Universum’s UK Director, Steve Ward

“Male and female professionals have had a remarkably different response during the pandemic. While men hope to remain challenged, recognised and be rewarded more, women are erring towards attributes that provide greater support and security.

“With IFS research showing that mothers were more likely than fathers to have left paid work during the lockdown, the impact of COVID-19 on earning confidence and the gender pay gap could be set to get worse as we enter another round of tight restrictions from the Government. It’s never been more important for employers to create a culture that recognises life outside work and embraces flexibility.”

Universum’s annual Most Attractive Employers report studied people’s career expectations, what employer attributes they consider most important and which employers are the most desirable to work for. Having been conducted for the last five years, it offers background into how the pandemic could widen the gender pay gap between men and women.

The Most Attractive Employers report showed that today men are drawn towards challenging work and increased recognition. At the same time, women prefer companies with better job security, leaders who will support their development and continued education opportunities.

Alongside widening the salary expectation gap, the insecurity around jobs caused by COVID-19 is leading workers to broaden their job search before deciding where they would like to work. In 2019, the average UK professional considered an average of 21 employers; however, in less than a year this number has increased to an average of 26, suggesting it’s more difficult than ever to choose a long-term employer.

The report also suggests that COVID-19 has inspired all genders to seek out more socially-conscious employment. In the rankings of most desirable companies, The British Council, Environment Agency and Oxfam were some of the biggest climbers this year. At the same time, the NHS kept hold of its title as the top British preferred employer. 

The top ten most desirable organisations to work for in business are:

  1. Google 
  2. J.P. Morgan
  3. Apple
  4. Netflix
  5. Goldman Sachs
  6. Nike
  7. PwC 
  8. Deloitte
  9. KPMG
  10. BBC
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