Just half published gender pay gap reports in light of enforcement suspension

Many women have taken on the bulk of childcare duties during lockdown Shutterstock

Only half of businesses chose to publish their gender pay gap reports for 2019 – a decision that could see gender equality ‘pushed back a generation’.

According to Business in the Community, which published its analysis of gender pay gap reporting on the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, just 5,081 organisations had published their 2019 pay gap shortly after the reporting deadline had passed, compared with 10,828 organisations that had published by last year’s deadline.

Shortly before the deadline, the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission announced that enforcement of the reporting requirement would be suspended this year in recognition of the “unprecedented uncertainty and pressure” employers were facing.

Based on the data available from those 5,081 submissions the difference in male and female median pay increased from 11.9% to 12.8%, despite the Office for National Statistics stating in October that the pay gap had decreased.

BITC urged companies that had not yet published their gender pay gap reports – including FTSE 100 firms – to do so, as it warned that the pressures brought on by pandemic risked damaging the progress that had been made in improving gender equality.

“Pay gap reporting is a vital tool in understanding and tackling gender inequality at work. If we don’t have a clear picture of women’s status at work entering the crisis, we won’t be able to take the right steps going forward,” said Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality campaign director at BITC.

“It is hugely disappointing to see so many opted out when the legal requirement was lifted – and a worrying sign of attitudes towards gender equality during the crisis.”

BITC said women are more likely to work in industries that had been greatly affected by the lockdown, such as hospitality, and were more likely than men to be taking on childcare responsibilities because of school closures.

A report by the Young Women’s Trust published earlier this week found that 78% of those who had lost their jobs since the crisis began were women and two-thirds were aged between 18 and 34.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, mothers in households with two opposite-gender parents were only doing a third of the uninterrupted paid work hours of fathers, compared with 60% of these uninterrupted hours before the pandemic.

Woodworth said employers that chose to prioritise equality and inclusion during the crisis would be “better placed to flourish in the future”.

“We know that more diverse, inclusive workplaces lead to better bottom lines. The choices companies make now will play a vital role in deciding whether we lock in the progress made in recent years, or see women’s standing at work unravel. This crisis could see women’s equality pushed back a generation.”

BITC recommended that employers:

  • ensure cost-cutting measures do not disproportionately impact women
  • promote policies related to caring responsibilities to male staff
  • embed remote working into the way jobs are designed.

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