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Shake up of working culture and practices recommended to reduce pay gaps

Equality and Human Rights Commission

6 min read Partner content

All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, and greater support should be given to fathers to play more of a role in child care, in a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission said today.

The call comes as the Commission’s comprehensive strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps is released.
Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government, in society and in our businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.
Offering all jobs as flexible will remove the barriers faced by women and disabled people, who are more likely to have to negotiate flexible working or accept part-time jobs that are often low-paid.  Creating work places with flexible cultures will increase opportunities for everyone, giving people greater choice about the role they play both at work and home.
Giving fathers extra ‘use it or lose it’ paternity leave paid at the right level will encourage more men to ask for flexible working, reducing the ‘motherhood penalty’ that many women face after having children and increasing the opportunities for them to progress. This would follow a successful model adopted in Scandinavian countries.
Caroline Waters, Deputy Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top. Yes, female representation is important but tackling pay gaps is far more complicated than that. Whilst there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow. We need radical change now otherwise we’ll be having the same conversation for decades to come.
“The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of the work we still need to do to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths.  These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression. For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.”
As well as pressing for flexible working to be encouraged in all jobs at all levels, the strategy also urges governments, their agencies and employers to: 

  • Unlock the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships
  • Improve work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live by investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise
  • Encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities by making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare
  • Increase diversity at all levels and in all sectors by encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay and introducing a new national target for senior and executive management positions
  • Report on progress towards reducing pay gaps by extending  reporting to ethnicity and disability and collecting annual statistics

The strategy is supported by the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date of pay gap data and the drivers behind them. It highlights the complex causes of pay gaps, often missed out of debates that focus only on the headline figures. Current figures calculate the gender pay gap at 18.1%, the ethnic minority pay gap at 5.7% and the disability pay gap at 13.6%, but the statistics alone are only part of the story and comparing them to each other can be unhelpful in identifying and tackling the causes of pay gaps for different groups.
The research reports some startling figures and surprising differences within groups, including:
Ethnicity pay gaps:
Several ethnic minorities have high proportions of people being paid less than the living wage. From 2011-2014, this was almost half of Bangladeshi men and around a third of Pakistani men. This compares with under a fifth of White British men. The largest ethnicity pay gaps are: 

  • Male Bangladeshi immigrants experienced the largest pay gap of 48%
  • Pakistani immigrant men experienced a 31% pay gap 

Most female ethnic minority groups had a pay advantage over White British women. However: 

  • Female Bangladeshi immigrants and Pakistani immigrants both experienced around a 12% pay gap compared with White British women 

Disability pay gaps:
Those with physical impairments generally earn less than non-disabled people, but the pay gaps for men with neurological or mental health conditions are particularly large:

  • Men with epilepsy experience a pay gap close to 40% and women with epilepsy have a 20% pay gap compared to non-disabled men and women respectively
  • Men with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of around 30% whilst women with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of 10% 

The research also highlights that women, disabled people and people from some ethnic minority groups are more likely to be paid below the living wage. This means that caution should be given to comparing sizes of pay gaps.  For instance, the pay gap between disabled women and non-disabled women is smaller than the pay gap between disabled men and non-disabled men. This is because women in general are more likely to be paid less to begin with.
Sarah Kirk, Global Diversity and Inclusion Director, Page Group said:
“Our strategic decision to shift our culture and become truly inclusive was driven by moral, ethical and commercial reasons. Our core Diversity and Inclusion initiatives are aligned with the Equality and Human Rights Commission strategy and we fully support the suggested recommendations to reduce pay gaps. We encourage flexibility across all levels and have a number of partnerships in place to ensure we are offering the right services to all employees across our business.”
Caroline Waters continued:
“The inequalities in pay for ethnic minority groups and disabled people also need to be talked about. We’re launching this strategy to kick start the change we need. This includes action to tackle inequalities across the board, including those who are trapped in low pay who often get missed from the headlines.”
To find out more about the Equality and Human Right Commission’s new strategy, Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain, and the new research into ethnicity, disability and gender pay gaps, visit


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