We Must Do More to Bridge Gender Pay Gap; to Coincide with the Imminent Release of Gender Pay Gap Reports by Larger Businesses, MARK LANE Canvasses North East Opinion on the Long and Painful Process of Achieving Pay and Status Equality

The Journal (Newcastle, England), March 29, 2018 | Go to article overview

We Must Do More to Bridge Gender Pay Gap; to Coincide with the Imminent Release of Gender Pay Gap Reports by Larger Businesses, MARK LANE Canvasses North East Opinion on the Long and Painful Process of Achieving Pay and Status Equality


Byline: MARK LANE

WITH just a couple weeks to go before we see the first full publishing of results from Mandatory Gender Pay Gap Reporting, the subject of gender pay and equality is once again firmly back in the business spotlight.

With the Equal Pay Act becoming law as long ago as 1971, a law updated in the Equality Act 2010, how can the gender gap between men and women still exist? Will the new reporting lead to a further closing of the gap? Could the Government do more legislatively to bring about true pay parity? And does the gap in gender pay and status really matter? These are amongst the questions I put to a panel of North East experts as I sought to gauge regional business opinion on the issues surrounding equal pay and status.

A strong, common message emerged: there is no place for any gender pay gap in today's society - fully capitalising on the talent and experience of women is good for individuals, employers and our economy.

Susanne Shah, director of divorce and family law at Newcastle law firm Vardags, emphatically sets the scene: "As long as there is a pay gap, it cannot be said that women are valued as highly as men in the workplace. It is unacceptable that the contributions of women are still not fully appreciated. If workplaces caught up to the times, loosening these rigid, patriarchal models then they would unlock so much talent and really prosper.

"Remuneration for employment should be judged on skill, talent and expertise in a certain field and should have nothing to do with a person's gender. I believe we should all have a strong moral compass and strive for equality."

First then, to the imminent deadline for private sector reporting on gender pay gaps (4 April 2018), which initially applies to all companies with over 250 employees. Could the ramifications of this really make a difference in closing the pay gap? As we have seen from the high profile reporting on pay disparities between genders at the BBC, it is likely we'll see some shocks emerge, as Carsten Staehr, CEO of Gatesheadbased Cintra speculates: "We are now getting close to publication deadline of the figures and I'm pretty confident there will be a lot of explaining to do by certain sectors - although as with all statistics it is always open for interpretation. In my mind, it will show a clear trend - one of unequal pay and that we have a problem. Hence, I particularly like the fact that companies have to explain their gender pay gap."

Staehr, whose company has developed software to help companies report on gender pay, adds a warning: "The finding could lead to an exodus of female talent from the worst-performing companies which will be a problem along with bad PR for the companies involved. I am sure that every employer will take this seriously and the correction to equal pay will start and be rapid."

Julie Dalzell, senior associate at the Stockton-based law firm Jacksons, agrees: "It is clear from ONS surveys and the gender pay reports that are now in the public domain as a result of the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2017, that inequalities between pay and status for men and women are still widespread within UK businesses almost 50 years on from when equal pay was first enshrined in law.

"Shamefully for media institutions such as the BBC and Channel 4 it seems the only explanation for the stark differences in pay amongst high earning staff of both genders, is that male presenters are regarded as a more prized commodity than their female counterparts."

She goes on to add that there are loopholes within the Gender Pay Regulations that employers may be exploiting in order to take them below the threshold whereby the reporting obligations bite.

Jane Dalton, a volunteer ambassador for Northern Power Women, a hub for working people interested in closing the gender equality gap, believes that the publishing of pay gap figures is an important step that helps to flag systemic problems in the workplace. …

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