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.
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.
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
Laura Good, Deborah Towns and Jesse E. Olsen, from the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, discuss work-life balance, workplace gender inequality, and an innovative Australian programme to encourage more men to take-up flexible working arrangements.
Women’s increased participation in the labour force over the past 50 years has outpaced changes to work organisation and social attitudes. This is true for issues of work-life balance, which continue to polarise workers and managers.
Research from the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year. Around 20% of the 3,200 new mothers surveyed also reported harassment or negative comments from managers and colleagues when returning to work.
Where they were able to take up flexible working options, half of new mothers reported negative consequences, including having fewer opportunities to develop their careers. Interestingly, mothers working for small businesses were less likely to report a negative impact from flexible work requests – 41% versus 51% across all respondents.
Read more at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
To promote women at work, companies should be looking to provide men with more benefits, including committing to offering paternity leave.
Making leave for new parents gender-neutral, allowing both new mothers and fathers time to look after their child, would help to reduce the ‘motherhood’ penalty faced by women who, after taking parental leave, are less likely to be promoted and earn less than their male colleagues.
For paternity leave policies to have any affect, however, companies must do more than announce them. Rather, they need to encourage men to use them and help change workplace cultures where men fear taking paternity leave will damage their careers.
The more men that take paternity leave the sooner it will be normalised. This will mean new fathers and their child can benefit from more time spent together, and also that women will no longer face the stigma of taking maternity leave.
Read more the Huffington Post.
In Australia, it remains taken for granted that women will take primary responsibility for childcare. It is women who are overwhelmingly the stay-at-home child carers, and women who work part-time to accommodate childcare needs.
While many men might want to take on childcare responsibility there are factors that prevent them from doing so. The gender pay gap means that men often earn more than their female partners, making it more likely women who will give up work. It’s also the case that too few workplaces in Australia offer flexible work arrangements.
This lack of flexible working arrangements make it difficult for men to take on childcare responsibilities. Importantly, however, men must be active in asking for flexible work, to shift cultural expectations and make it the norm.
Read more at The Age.