One in three UK women believe the gender pay gap is ‘out of their hands’

Close to nine in ten women have been paid less because of their gender, according to a new study. Over a third believe the gender pay gap is so far gone, it's out of their hands. How much of this is true, and what can be done?

One in three female employees in the UK believe the gender pay gap has gone on for so long, it would be difficult to eliminate it entirely.

New research from independent job board, CV-Library, has found that 87.9 per cent of women said that they’ve been paid less because of their gender, with over a third of female employees believing that the gender pay gap is ‘out of their hands’.

The research, which surveyed 1,000 UK workers on their attitudes towards the gender pay gap in Britain, found that despite there being concerns around stopping pay inequality, over two thirds (67.3 per cent) of workers do believe that their employer can effectively measure any gaps in their organisation. In order to prevent any further disconnect, they suggested employers set salaries for each industry and role, increase support for working mums and dads, end the stigma around women going on maternity leave, and controversially, that women gain more confidence to ask for more money.

The study comes just one month before the changes in legislation around gender pay reporting are set to come in place.

The CV-Library study revealed that men are more likely than women to be happy for their company to publish their salary, with 53.9 per cent believing it to be the fair thing to do. 

Of the 23.8 per cent who said that they wouldn’t be happy for their salary to be revealed, 66.7 per cent said that it’s because it is private information, rising to 70.8 per cent among women. 

The time to prepare is now

“The gap regulations provides a lot of definitions, but it’s a mathematical process of applying the formula to their reporting data,” says Michelle Gray, HR specialist and employment partner at berg, a Manchester based law firm. Gray recently hosted a webinar on gender pay gap reporting regulations, highlighting popular mistakes business owners make when preparing for the snapshot date of 5th April this year.

According to Gray, if businesses are behind in their preparation for the snapshot date, the process will be harder than it needs to be. Businesses with over 250 employees are expected to collate data from the 5th of April this year, to make the reporting deadline next year. “It’s about preparing themselves for collecting that data. They need to look at all the figures of the employees that are covered. For example, it doesn’t include people on sickness absence or maternity. It’s about headcount rather than status as employee, and it includes self-employed consultants. There’s some preparation they need to be aware of,” she says.

Many businesses may be unaware of what to do with salary data and how they present it from a publishing point of view, she explains. “It’ll be seen by the public and has to stay on the website for a number of years. This may have potential ramifications for retention and recruiting of staff.”

SMEs are next

While at present, the government has made pay reporting mandatory for companies wth 250 employees, Gray believes that this is just a small step for eliminating the gender pay gap. “The government decided that it may be too burdensome for small employers to report their pay data, but businesses with more than 250 employees don’t represent the majority of businesses in the UK, which, let’s face it, are SMEs. At the moment, the govt has prepared these regulations to alleviate and reduce the gender pay gap, but it’s not going to have the desired effect if it only applies to businesses with 250 employees.”

For those businesses thinking this isn’t relevant to them, it absolutely is. It will be coming into effect in the future, says Gray.

“The median and mean of bonus payments and the proportion of men and women who receive the bonus will be put on the table. This is where a lot of businesses may be stuck. A lot bonuses may be discretionary and the spotlight really will be on the bonuses,” she explains. While basic salaries are still very different between men and women, it’s the bonus pay that really sees a disparity, especially in finance.

“It’s not mandatory, it’s voluntary, but businesses will definitely need to think about how they’ll communicate this with the rest of their business and to the outside world.”

A problem in finance

In the legal sector, Gray estimates that every year, they see around 50 or so female trainees enter the workforce, but that statistics change at partner level, something the pay gap issue has little do with.

“More men than women are becoming equity partners. Will gender pay gap reporting address that issue? In my view, no, because it only looks at the salaries and roles that’s captured. The issue of more women in senior position has been around for years,” she says. “I’m still against quotas, but ultimately we’re going to have to have them to get the numbers up.”

The issue of how women progress in their careers involves so many other variable factors, it isn’t going to be addressed by simply reporting requirements. There’s a big area of businesses that hasn’t got it yet, says Gray. 

“You’ve got the culture and that mainly women are the ones working part-time, even with shared parental leave now as an option. Clearly, that isn’t working because our culture doesn’t encourage it. The take-up of (paternity leave) is very low, as expected.”

Ultimately, Gray believes mandatory reporting should apply to smaller businesses with fewer employees as well, and it shouldn’t just be about pay. “For a real step-change, the pay gap needs to be approached holistically. Issues like flexible work, and cultural changes in the workplace should be part of the discussion.”

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.