Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality campaign director at Business in the Community

On the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, new research carried out by Business in the Community - The Prince’s Responsible Business Network - has found that the number of organisations who have reported on their gender pay gap has halved since 2019.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, in March the UK government suspended the requirement for companies to report their 2019-2020 gender pay gap. Relevant measurement data becomes available to reporting organisations one year in advance, and the decision to lift the requirement came less than two weeks before the 4 April 2020 deadline.

Therefore, the number of non-reporters – which includes many FTSE100 organisations – comes as a worrying sign for things to come for gender equality in the workplace.

Shortly after the reporting deadline, Business in the Community analysed data reported by organisations over the last three years. As at 8 of April, 5,081 organisations had reported on the government portal. Since then, approximately 500 additional organisations have reported. Last year 10828 organisations had reported by the April 2019 deadline.

At the time of the analysis, the average UK gender pay gap on a median basis, showed a year on year increase from 11.9% in 2018-19, to 12.8% in 2019-20. This builds on data published in October 2019 by the Office of National Statistics, which showed that the gender pay gap had decreased year on year.

As businesses grapple with the ongoing crisis, the risk to gender equality is stark. Women are more likely to work in the industries worst hit by lockdown, more likely picking up the extra childcare needed as schools and nurseries remain closed and more likely to work in lower paid, less secure work than men. BITC are urging those companies yet to file to do so- the government is accepting data throughout the year.

Charlotte Woodworth, gender equality campaign director at Business in the Community, said:

“Pay gap reporting is a vital tool in understanding and tackling gender inequality at work. If we don’t have a clear picture of women’s status at work entering the crisis, we won’t be able to take the right steps going forward. It is hugely disappointing to see so many opted out when the legal requirement was lifted – and a worrying sign of attitudes towards gender equality during the crisis.

“In these difficult times, businesses which choose to put equality and inclusion at the heart of their response will end up better placed to flourish in the future. We know that more diverse, inclusive workplaces lead to better bottom lines. The choices companies make now will play a vital role in deciding whether we lock in the progress made in recent years, or see women’s standing at work unravel.This crisis could see women’s equality pushed back a generation.”

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Business in the Community is also urging companies to:

  • Ensure cost cutting meausures do not disproportionately impact on women
  • Promote policies related to caring responsibilities at this time, for example flexible working patterns, to male staff
  • Embed learnings about remote working into the way jobs are designed in the ‘new normal’  - flexible working is proven to enable the recruitment, retention and progression of women at work

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