Combatting gender inequality in the workplace

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Over the last few years, there have been concerted efforts to try and ensure that companies and organisations put gender equality issues at the forefront of their business, while also ensuring they drive gender inequality out of places of work.

While still there remains a significant amount of work to be done to guarantee that both women and men are treated equally, thankfully, measures are being put in place to close the gap.

In this article, we will look to understand what gender equality is, how companies are addressing the issues surrounding it, what laws are in place to reduce inequality and the ways that PayFit helps businesses monitor and improve their gender gap.

What is gender equality?

Gender equality is the state in which access to rights or opportunities is unaffected by someone’s gender.

In essence, it is achieved when both women and men enjoy the same opportunities and rights within society as a whole.

The professional workplace very much mirrors society, although, within it, the principal issue remains centred around the gender pay gap.

Gender inequality in the workplace.

Gender inequality in the workplace.

Historical inequality

Gender inequality is a very sensitive subject that has manifested itself in several different ways throughout history. Appreciating the historical context of gender inequality is vital in helping us understand why the workplace remains one of the areas where gender inequality is still so prevalent.

Traditionally, outmoded schools of thought dictated that women should remain the primary carers of children and other dependants and not the family breadwinner. In recent years, this somewhat old-fashioned way of thinking has been challenged, and the historical perception of women being best suited to domesticated life and raising families is being progressively phased out.

In the UK, gender inequality existed in so many areas of society. Up until 1918, women weren’t even afforded the right to vote. Thanks to the pioneering work carried out by the Suffragettes, namely figures such as Emmeline Parkhurst and Emily Davidson, women above the age of 30 were granted the right to vote. However, even then either they or their husbands needed to meet specific property ownership requirements. It wasn’t until 1928 that women received the same voting rights as men.

While women may have achieved voting parity with men, the workplace continues to be a theatre where women are consistently undermined, unappreciated and perhaps most measurably, underpaid.

So why does a gender pay gap still remain?

Equality and UK law 🇬🇧

For a long time, men have been rewarded disproportionately compared to their female colleagues and this is never more evident than when analysing the gender pay gap.

The gender pay gap is the average hourly percentage gap between the salaries received by men and women. This is very different to equal pay, which relates to paying both men and women the same for jobs of equal value.

Equal pay has been enshrined in law since 1970 when the Equal Pay Act was introduced. The act prohibited any differentiation between men and women in the same employment. The law stipulates:

"for men and women employed on like work the terms and conditions of one sex are not in any respect less favourable than those of the other.”

Equal Pay Act, 1970

While equal pay may be consecrated in law, the gender pay gap continues to be a big issue within the workplace.

In 2019, the UK’s overall gender pay gap within UK employment saw men earn 17.3% more than women, while the difference between full-time employees was 8.9%. Results from the previous year saw little change (17.8% and 8.6%).

The reasons behind this continued gap are complex and numerous. Issues such as the incorrect implementation of laws, such as the aforementioned Equal Pay Act, may play their part, as well as the fact that the number of men in senior positions is entirely disproportionate to that of the workforce split.

A survey conducted in 2019 indicated that women held only slightly more than a quarter (28%) of senior management positions within the EU. In fact, the stat is even more damning when analysed a little further.

Despite making up roughly 50% of the workforce, just 17% of senior executive and under 7% of CEO roles were held by women.

The UK does fare a little better than a lot of other countries, with just over 37% of management positions held by women. Nevertheless, the latest global equality rankings have seen the UK fall six places to 21st.

While seniority may play its part, an underlying issue continues to be the cultural bias and stereotypical assumptions that many people still hold.

Consequently, unravelling the knots of decades of gender discrimination is unlikely to be solved overnight, and there remains a great deal of work to be done to achieve parity in the future.

Did you know?

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was repealed in 2010 and replaced with The Equality Act 2010. This act is an amalgamation of many prior existing acts; the aforementioned Equal Pay Act 1970; the Sex Discrimination Act 1975; Race Relations Act 1976; Disability Discrimination Act 1995; and three other statutory legislations protecting against discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation, age and religious beliefs.

Reducing inequality at work

The Government has taken steps in recent years to try and reduce the gender pay gap within organisations.

Changes to the Equality Act came into effect on the 6th of April 2017. These changes made it compulsory for companies with 250+ employees in Great Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) to report the gender pay gap figures within their organisation at the end of each financial year.

The introduction of such measures was designed to try and shed light on the disparity between how much men and women earn within organisations.

Companies that met the criteria had to respond to six specific points.

  • Their mean gender pay gap in hourly pay
  • Their median gender pay gap in hourly pay
  • Their mean bonus gender pay gap
  • Their median bonus gender pay gap
  • The proportion of men and women who receive a bonus payment
  • The proportion of men and women in each quartile pay band

On the 24th of March, 2020, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) announced that the deadline for gender pay gap reporting for the 2019/20 tax year had been suspended.

Public sector organisations had been due to publish their data no later than the 31st of March, whereas private companies and charitable organisations were initially required to publish theirs on the 5th of April 2020.

Both have been indefinitely suspended for this year due to the outbreak of coronavirus and the subsequent impact on UK businesses.

PayFit and gender equality

We at PayFit work tirelessly to ensure that all of our clients remain compliant at all times.

This means that even if you do not have a mandatory requirement to report, we provide the relevant data analysis of the gender pay gap within your organisation in conjunction with the above criteria.

Get in touch with us today to find out how we can help simplify your payroll and HR processes.

PayFit blog author



UK Marketing Manager

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