How Best To Close The Gender Pay Gap

It is nearly 50 years since men and women gained the legal right to equal pay for equal work. But there remains a stubborn gap. Thanks to new reporting requirements we now know more about the nature of the problem.

In April 2018, employers with over 250 employees were legally required to publish data relating to salary inequalities. Data published had to include the pay and bonus figures between men and women, and included data from April 2017. A BBC analysis of the figures after the deadline expired showed that more than three-quarters of UK companies pay men more on average than women. Employment barrister Harini Iyengar advocates more flexible working and greater paternity leave to achieve economic and cultural change.

What is clear is that a large majority of employers pay men more on average than they do women. The main reason for this is that men occupy a higher proportion of senior positions. That finding is hardly surprising, but the process itself has been valuable, prompting employers to think harder about the reasons for this imbalance.

Pay: The Key Interview Question

Maybe one of the problems is the interview question, what’s your current salary? An innocuous question to be asked  you’d have thought. But beware: it may be a key factor in perpetuating pay discrimination and you’d perhaps be wise not to answer it. Once potential employers learn you’ve been underpaid in your previous job, they have every reason to get you on the cheap too. That’s why those who are underpaid — typically women and people from ethnic minorities — tend to stay that way. They may change jobs and get salary increases, but their incomes stay tethered to a low base.

Yet to shut down conversations on wages just when people are campaigning for greater pay transparency (not least to expose the pay gap) seems perverse. A better solution, surely, would be to ask companies to disclose the actual salary of the job being advertised.

Now that the disparities within companies have been laid bare: the next year will test the resolve of companies and Government to fix them.

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