In April of 2018, large companies with over 250 employees were obliged to report their gender pay gap for the first time. Headlines that week were dominated by some of the surprise and shock of the extent to which women were paid less in majority of the companies reported, while for many women it just confirmed our hidden beliefs. There was a slight optimism, however, that there can only be progress. However, many companies who are reporting their new pay gap for this year show that rather than progress, many have increased their gaps. Why is this the case?
Flexible working is becoming a must for many. One recent report found a quarter of UK workers have refused a job due to a lack of flexibility. This number jumps to 40% for millennial workers for whom work-life balance and flexible working is key when evaluating a job prospect.
Many hope that flexible working can help tackle the persistent gender pay gap. This is why the UK government announced a review of the right to flexible working in 2019 and the prime minister, Theresa May, said firms should strive to make it a reality for all staff, while urging companies to ensure women are better represented at senior levels. But my work with Tanja van der Lippe into the reality of how flexible working plays out shows that it can end up reinforcing gender stereotypes if cultural norms go unchecked.
Research from Yougov shows that the majority of workers want to have some sort of flexibility in their work, with more than half wanting to deviate away from the traditional 9 to 5 routine. It has also been shown that just under half of workers are already working flexibly one way or another.
This echoes my findings based on the 2015 European Working Conditions Survey which found that just under 30% of workers in the UK have access to some sort of flexible schedules and 23% regularly work outside of their offices/at home. As today’s survey shows this type of flexibility helps workers better navigate between the demands of work and family life, which increases wellbeing, job satisfaction, motivation and loyalty towards the company eventually making them stay in the job longer. This in sum provides huge benefits for employers.
The benefits of flexible working for women are especially important – providing women with more control over when and where they work allows them to stay in employment and maintain their jobs/working hours after they have children. Furthermore, there is evidence that when men work flexibly it helps their partners/women’s career progression too. As such ensuring all workers with access to flexible working is crucial to tackle the ongoing gender wage gap issues in the UK.
However, there is increasing evidence that workers, especially men, are hesitant to ask for flexible working due to fears of repercussions on their career. My own research shows that more than 1/3 of workers feel that flexible workers make more work for others, and will result in negative outcomes for one’s career/promotion chances. This is largely due to the fact that our working culture is still one where long hours in the office is seen as a sign of commitment.
But with demand for flexible working high and abundant evidence for the business case for flexible working we need to tackle the flexibility stigma – i.e., the biases against those who work flexibly and change our notion of what productivity and commitment looks like. This will ensure flexible working works for all and achieves the benefits it can bring to both business and their staff.’
Flexible working for family reasons should be celebrated.
Why flexible working is key if shared parental leave is to have a lasting impact on the gender pay gap
All large companies in the UK have been rushing to report their gender pay gap by an April 5 deadline, when new rules came into force to tackle the stubborn gap between the salaries of men and women.
Motherhood is a key reason why this gender pay gap persists. Many women leave the labour market or move into part-time jobs after giving birth, which has a knock-on effect on their pay. This is partly due to conservative views regarding the division of labour in the UK, where most mothers take on the bulk of childcare and housework. Even when mothers choose to maintain their careers after childbirth, there can be an inherent bias towards them due to societal perceptions that they will prioritise their family over their work.
The best way to solve this problem is to ensure that fathers, or partners, are made to take on as much of a role in childcare as mothers. One way to do this is to give them the opportunity to spend time with their new-born babies, as well as to provide them with the opportunity to be more hands on later in the child’s life.
They work in low-paying jobs because they have no other choice.
A recent study shows that the global gender pay gap has increased to 32 percent, and projects that at this rate, women will have to wait another 217 years for the pay gap to close. It’s not just your own gender, but the gender makeup of your workplace that predicts your wages. Workers in female-dominated workplaces have been shown to be paid less than other workers. An industry’s pay level even starts to decrease when women take over a male-dominated field.
Some argue that the low pay for women is justified by the fact that ‘women’s work’ is generally less strenuous/hazardless work compared to men’s work, and that, in exchange for lower wages, they have better working conditions—especially those that allow a better work-life balance. Some well-meaning scholars argue that women sometimes forego higher pay to have that flexibility in their jobs—an argument sometimes extended to suggest that women voluntarily “choose” lower paying jobs to facilitate their “life choices”—read: to take care of children.
The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.
One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.
Nearly one in five [18%] of working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey published today .
The survey of over 2,000 women in Workingmums.co.uk’s 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter of mums in work [26%] have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter [27%] said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.
Annabel Crabb in conversation with four men, each working flexible hours in various careers. What are the perceptions of men working flexible hours and how does this affect their careers, colleagues and family life?
WAF note: Key points mentioned here about the flexibility bias, how to eliminate them, and how to manage a flexible working workers – and finally flexibility is NOT only about reducing hours!
via the Australian Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency
Workers in countries where shorter working hours are the norm are more likely to complain of poor work-life balance, according to our research recently published in the journal Social Forces.
David Maume and I explored the impact of legislated maximum working hours, now in place in most western industrialised countries, on work-family conflict. We included data for employees in 32 nations.
Ah, the Danish model of childcare. So much ink has been spilt over how great of a system it is, in terms of cost, quality as well as just the abundance/accessibility of it – and consequently how it really supports/allows mothers to get back to work after childbirth.