Pay has featured heavily in the news over the last couple of months. On 25 October the government revealed plans to extend its gender pay gap reporting requirements to large public sector employers and to include information about bonuses; during Living Wage Week on 1-7 November, the Living Wage Foundation announced that the voluntary living wage rate had increased from £7.85 to £8.25 an hour, and from £9.15 to £9.40 in London; and 9 November marked Equal Pay Day, the date from which women effectively stop earning for the year relative to men.
This staggering calculation bears repeating; when considering the mean average between the hourly earnings of full-time male and female workers, women are essentially doing their job for free until the end of 2015. It is of some (very) small comfort that Equal Pay Day fell five days later in 2015 than it did in 2014, although it is worth noting that last year’s Equal Pay Day (4 November) came three days earlier than in 2013 (7 November). At that rate, how long will it take for Equal Pay Day to work its way into December or off the calendar completely?
While the law entitles women to receive equal pay for equal work, factors influencing the gender pay gap are complex and varied. One such factor is the impact that taking time out of the workplace to have or raise children can have on a woman’s career and pay trajectory. Some employers are taking action to address this. In October, PricewaterhouseCoopers launched its ‘Back to Business’ programme to help those who have taken an extended career break to transition back into the workplace. Meanwhile, Lloyds Banking Group is to double the number of places on its returners programme in 2016.
One of the aims of these initiatives is to support female talent, although the schemes are open to both women and men who have been out of the workplace for two years or more. Demonstrating support for employees – both male and female – that take time out of the workplace, whether for caring responsibilities or otherwise, could help to reduce the associated cultural and material impact of doing so.
The solutions to the pay gap are likely to be as numerous and nuanced as its causes, but dedicating time to analyse contributing factors that can be addressed at the employer level is a step in the right direction.