As the consultation closes on the Government’s draft gender pay reporting regulations today, new research findings based on a survey of over 1,000 employers and HR professionals show that a minority of organisations currently conduct any gender pay analysis, as well as the limited action being taken by employers to address the causes of gender inequality.

The survey, which has informed the CIPD’s response to the consultation over the draft regulations, finds just 28% of employers overall and 34% at larger organisations (those with 250 or more employees) say their organisation conducts any analysis of the pay of men and women. Among organisations that don’t currently analyse gender pay differentials, only 7% of large organisations plan to conduct any analysis of the pay of men and women in the next 12 months, with 47% saying they won’t and 46% responding that they don’t know if they will or not, reflecting the uncertainty amongst employers over the timelines for the implementation of the gender pay reporting regulations.

Dianah Worman, diversity adviser for CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments: 

The survey findings demonstrate the need for employers to act expeditiously to be able to deliver what will be expected of them, or risk damaging their public reputations as progressive employers of female talent and undermine their competiveness in attracting and retaining it. Overall, the CIPD believes the government proposals on the regulations - which are based on extensive consultations - are on the right track. We welcome the additional focus on publishing information on the bonus gap and quartile salary bands which will give more detailed insights to employers on where and how pronounced gender pay differentials exist and what needs to be done to address them.

However, we're not convinced that the proposals to publish pay gap league tables across economic sectors will be helpful in levering systemic change. While at first sight they might appear to be a useful sanction, they could have the unintended consequence of compromising greater transparency and be subject to misinterpretation of commitment to change if not especially if they are not set in context.

To stimulate employers to act willingly, it is vital to raise awareness about the reasons why addressing the gender pay gap makes good business sense and the good practice that can be adopted to put things right. This calls for a clear and well-evidenced communication strategy and simple, accessible guidance. This should cover how to prepare a narrative report explaining pay gap information and help employers to understand the basis of their gender pay gap and the kind of practical measures they can take to close it.

The survey also shows that action taken by employers to promote equal opportunities for men and women within the last two years, or planned over the next 12 months, is limited and on an ad-hoc basis.

The most commonly cited ways in which organisations have tried to improve equal opportunities in the last two years are:

  • improving the range of flexible working opportunities available to staff (26% all employers; 34% large employers)
  • developing more inclusive recruitment practices (16% all employers; 21% large employers)
  • through greater use of mentoring in the last two years to help women progress into the most senior levels in the business (13% all employers; 19% large employers)
  • improving the childcare package they offer staff (10% all employers; 14% of large employers)

But worryingly, just 5% of employers (8% of large employers) say their organisation has developed closer links with schools or colleges as a means of improving the gender balance in certain occupations or sectors.

Looking ahead, fewer than half (44%) of employers say they have no specific plans in the next 12 months to improve opportunities for women with two-thirds of smaller employers and a third of larger employers saying this is the case.

Among those employers that are planning action to improve the gender balance, the most popular remedy is to improve flexible working opportunities (13% of large employers), the development of more inclusive recruitment practices (11% of large employers) and the introduction of mentoring to help women progress into more senior roles (13% of large employers).

Worman continues:

Employers need to focus on reviewing people management and development policies and working practices to ensure they are inclusive and bias–free. Government has a key role to play in encouraging education providers and employers to help and inform young people and their parents about the diversity of career options available to them, changing misinformed perceptions and improving knowledge. The availability of good careers advice is imperative to help shape and inform the skills the UK needs to be economically competitive.

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