The campaign theme of this years’ International Women’s day is #pledgeforparity: a bid to ‘accelerate gender parity’ in the workplace. A plethora of well-known business figureheads such as Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, and Fiona Dawson, Global President, Mars Food, Drinks & Multisales, have joined forces to support the movement, and raise awareness about the inequality still faced by women all over the world in 2016.
Amid reports that on average, women in the UK are likely to earn £300,000 less than their male counterparts over their working lives, there is a real question as to whether enough is being done by the government to close the gap, which many attribute to a difference in caring responsibilities and the impact that having children has on women’s careers. Over 40 years since the Equal Pay Act 1970 came into force, the figures from the Office for National Statistics for 2014 show that the gender pay gap (based on median hourly earnings for both full and part-time employees) is currently 19.1%, reducing to 9.4% for full time employees.
In the private sector, the gender pay gap for full-time employees is 17.5%. When looking specifically at occupations, provisional figures for 2014 suggest that the pay gap for those in full time management roles is approximately 16% and for those working in skilled trades, this rises to just under 25%.
Gender parity is not just missing in how much women are paid at work, but sadly, in also how women are treated. Sex discrimination and maternity discrimination remains commonplace and the Government’s October 2015 Pregnancy and Maternity-Related Discrimination and Disadvantage First Findings Report found that 20% of the mothers who responded to the survey, had experienced negative comments or harassment related to pregnancy or flexible working from their employer and/or colleagues . The Report’s other main findings included:
• Around one in nine mothers (11%) reported that they were either dismissed; made compulsorily redundant, where others in their workplace were not; or treated so poorly they felt they had to leave their job; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 54,000 mothers a year.
• 10% of mothers said their employer discouraged them from attending antenatal appointments; if scaled up to the general population this could mean as many as 53,000 mothers a year.
David Cameron has vowed to ‘end the gender pay gap in a generation’, most notably, paving the way to requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. The Government has published the draft Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016, and is now consulting on Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting proposals.
Under the new rules, companies will be required to start collating the relevant data as early as April 2017, with results to be published in 2018. The reporting requirement will apply equally to private and voluntary sector employers in England and Wales.
Whilst rights to equality in the workplace have developed significantly over recent decades, with companies already making a real shift towards transparency, it is clear that a cultural shift must be achieved, if we are ever going to achieve true gender equality.