Just 2,500 companies have reported their gender pay gap data so far this year – a significant drop on previous years – causing experts to call employers’ commitment to closing their gaps into question.
While the equalities watchdog had postponed enforcement action for firms failing to meet the reporting requirements, now giving employers until October to report, businesses were still being encouraged to meet Monday’s (5 April) deadline for disclosing their 2020-21 figures.
However, as of today (7 April) the number of companies to make their disclosures was just 2,528.
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This represents a 77 per cent drop compared to the total of 10,833 firms that reported for 2018-19, and a 59 per cent decrease on the 6,150 that reported for 2019-20 when enforcement was suspended completely.
Charles Cotton, senior reward and performance adviser at the CIPD, said he was “concerned by the sharp drop in employers” that have reported so far. “While this is not surprising given enforcement action has been delayed by six months, it does raise questions about the commitment of some employers to tackling their gender pay gap,” he said.
“Reporting is an integral part of an organisation’s fairness strategy and, without it, employers lack a valuable tool to assess the fairness of how they recruit, manage, develop and reward their people. We would therefore urge those that have not yet filed their figures for 2020 to do so now, rather than waiting until October.”
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Cotton added that, given the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women, it was “even more of an imperative” for businesses to put gender pay reporting at the top of their agenda.
As it stands, the CIPD’s analysis showed that the median gender pay gap was 12.8 per cent last year, the same as in 2018. However, this is likely to change as more companies add their data.
This was echoed by Kate Palmer, HR advice director at Peninsula. “It may be some time until we can look at the complete picture and, even then, the pandemic's impact will likely impact these figures for some time,” she said.
However, Mandy Garner, managing editor of WM People, said given that those who have already reported were more likely to be committed to addressing the pay gap, the lack of movement in the figure was more worrying.
“I think, when the suspension is over, we will begin to get a better picture of how the pandemic has affected women's careers, and I fear we are only just beginning to see that impact in terms of women leaving or losing jobs or not applying for promotion, for example, because of the extra pressure they’ve been under during the pandemic,” said Garner.
Laura Gardiner, director of the Living Wage Foundation, noted that her organisation’s research indicated that women were also more likely to be on wages below the living wage as defined by the charity [as opposed to the statutory national living wage] than men (25 per cent and 17 per cent respectively).
“Fighting the gender pay gap starts at the bottom, and there can be no equality until all our workers are paid what they need to get by,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Women's Equality Party said the full effects of the government’s “mishandling” of the Covid crisis on women’s employment had not yet been released, and called for enforcement of the reporting requirements to be “urgently reinstated”.
“Women's employment has already grown more precarious. Parents, pregnant women and workers in female-dominated sectors during the pandemic have been left unprotected by the government and, without these protections, women are now facing redundancy or being forced to reduce their hours or quit their jobs,” they said.
“That is why it is absolutely essential that we understand the impacts of issues such as the gender pay gap and the urgent action needed to tackle them. What is not counted doesn’t count.”