By Kate Lucey
The average UK woman will work 56 days for free every year compared to the average UK man. This means that on the 6th of November 2022, women essentially "stop getting paid" compared to their male counterparts who are earning more than them and cruising out the year with an extra paycheque or two.
But wait, isn’t there work being done to close the gap? We always see the headlines exclaiming at the wage chasm, so people must be working on it, right? Wrong. It’s down to us. To you. This is the fifth consecutive year that this wage gap has been reported, and the fifth consecutive year that the gap hasn’t closed anywhere near enough, with progress currently at a deflating 0.5% narrowing of the delta.
Publishing the figures is clearly not enough. It’s helping raise awareness, sure, but it’s not pushing for the change that we need. We need actions to speak louder than analytics, and there are ways business leaders can implement change and actively work towards closing the gap and creating a more equal working society.
Commit to publishing and addressing your own pay gap discrepancies — and don’t stop at gender.
Currently it’s only obligatory for businesses with over 250 members of staff to publish their gender pay gap. At the most, this stacks up at 18% of British businesses and is clearly not a representative slice of the UK business population.
Publishing — or advocating for your business leaders to publish — the pay gap for your company will force leaders to first be aware of any discrepancies so that they can work towards rectifying them.
But let’s be real here; you can’t address the pay gap without addressing structural racism. Unlike the gender pay gap, there's currently no legal obligation for UK businesses to publish their workforce pay gaps in relation to ethnicity, and the government has said it won’t mandate ethnic pay gap reporting as not to “burden businesses recovering from the pandemic;” but it’s critical that this is addressed.
The wage gap between ‘the average UK woman and the average UK man’ is bleak, yes, but when you start to dive further into the data and look at the wage gap for women of colour, the particulars become truly appalling. Employees from ethnic minority groups largely makeup the ‘lower rung’ positions at businesses in the UK, and research shows that ethnic minority staff are disproportionately paid under the living wage in England. Wage gap reporting needs to be intersectional to be truthful.
Stop asking potential new hires what they’re currently earning.
Many hiring managers have been trained to feel a flutter of joy when they discover that a candidate who's perfect for their vacancy is currently earning well within or under the budget for the role. The perfect candidate’s salary offer will thus be lowered to be more aligned to the candidate's current earnings. This needs to stop. Basing a salary around what someone is already earning will immediately increase your chances of paying men more than you’re paying women (as it maintains the existing gender pay inequity) and undervalues the job you’re asking someone to do.
Advertising the salary that each role is worth will provide you with a more filtered candidate pool from the very first stage of your recruitment process. In the United States, it’s already a legal requirement in 10 states that employers must publish a role’s salary when hiring, and 14 states have introduced laws prohibiting employers asking candidates about their current earnings or salary history.
When it comes to narrowing the wage gap, these laws are both sensical and overdue. Why not be part of the positive change through pay transparency, and introduce these processes to your business in the UK. Become a change-leader and a pioneer. As a result, you may attract and retain highly talented individuals, and get some good PR for doing the right thing. Jobseekers are ranking company culture and values just as — if not more — highly as benefits and progression opportunities.
The pandemic has produced a workforce looking for honesty and values from their employers, and it’s about time they were empowered to be able to demand a non-toxic corporate culture. Now, the ability to create that change is with the leaders at the top. As a business executive, this is your moment to truly lead the charge. Implementing pay transparency and equity is the first step to treating your staff fairly and equitably, and will translate into an increased bottom line.
Don’t get left behind.