The Scottish, Welsh and UK governments do not stand a chance of meeting their aim of reducing the gender pay gap in a generation unless they take radical steps to combat barriers to equal work opportunities, research by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has concluded.
All three have taken positive steps towards reducing the gender pay gap – which in 2016 stood at 18.1%, including requiring both public and private sector organisations to report pay gap reporting. However, much more needs to be done.
But the governments also need to widen their focus to take into account ethnicity and disability pay gaps which are currently overlooked. The Office for National Statistics should be providing information on sizes and trends of these pay gaps as well as on the gender pay gap, the commission says.
The EHRC research currently estimates the pay gap between ethnic minorities and white people at 5.7%, and the gap between what disabled people earn compared to their non-disabled peers at 13.6%.
Ultimately, it would like to see the annual gender pay gap reporting requirements extended to cover ethnicity and disabled pay gaps as well.
“Our research shows that the pay gaps experienced by women, people from ethnic minorities and disabled people arise largely from the barriers they face getting into and progressing at work,” the EHRC says.
“Some elements of pay gaps result from the choices people make about balancing work with other aspects of their lives, though these choices may be dictated or constrained by stereotypes about the roles people, particularly women, are expected to play in society.
“Part time work is predominantly low-paid work and therefore the choice to work flexibly inevitably leads to lower pay.”
The EHRC has come up with six recommended actions which governments, their agencies and employers should be taking to drive change.
These include: unlocking the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships; improving work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live; and making all jobs at all levels available on a flexible basis.
They should also be encouraging men and women to share childcare responsibilities, as well as reducing prejudice and bias in recruitment promotion and pay, and they should report on the progress they make in reducing pay gaps.
“Our recommendations should go some way to closing gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps, tackling the barriers, constrained choices, discrimination and outmoded stereotypes that drive them,” the EHRC concludes. “By doing so, we can make Britain a fairer place.”