A report published this week indicates that the gender pay gap
increases dramatically on a woman's return to work following
maternity leave. Whilst this may not be entirely surprising, the
statistics are depressing. The report suggests that by the time the
first child is aged 12, a woman's hourly wages are a third
below men's. Part-time working arrangements, missed promotions
and necessary time out of the workplace are all contributing to
what is being labelled the "mum tax".
Recent research estimates that women earn 18 per cent less than
men on average and male managers are 40 per cent more likely than
female managers to be promoted.
The government has indicated that it is still committed to
closing the gender pay gap in the UK but publication of the final
gender pay gap reporting regulations has been delayed.
Notwithstanding that, it is still anticipated that gender pay gap
reporting obligations will take effect from April 2017.
In the meantime, a number of companies have considered
innovative ways in which they can close the gender pay gap and
ensure that women are given opportunities at the top. We set out a
few practical ideas below:
1. Encourage shared parental leave:
Although the uptake of shared parental leave has been
disappointingly low, some employers are offering enhanced shared
parental pay to try to encourage fathers to take the new form of
leave. It is hoped that this will give the opportunity for mothers
to return to work at an earlier date and avoid some of the pitfalls
of being out of the workplace for an extended period.
2. Offering women a pay rise: It may seem
a shockingly obvious way to tackle the gender pay gap but the
University of Essex and Brainlabs, a marketing agency, have
recently increased the pay of their female staff to bring their
average pay into line with their male colleagues, branding it a
"pay gap tax".
3. Allowing babies in the office: Amongst
other employers, taxi firm, Addison Lee, has reportedly
experimented with the idea, and Goldman Sachs supports parents
returning to work with an on-site office crèche. These
schemes enable employees to return to the workplace. However, where
employers do offer such arrangements, they should be careful to
ensure that the arrangements do not prove disruptive or interfere
with any employee's ability to carry out their job.
4. Enable parents to work from home:
Flexible working is an invaluable tool in an employer's toolkit
and research suggests that those who are allowed to work flexibly
are often more productive. Where possible, employers should support
and encourage parents seeking alternative working arrangements.
5. Subsidise childcare: Childcare vouchers
already provide a tax efficient way for employers to help employees
with their childcare costs. However, some childcare voucher schemes
do affect tax credits and for some mothers on low income, once
childcare and travel costs are accounted for, it can become
financially unattractive to work. There is currently a campaign
on-going calling for state childcare assistance once paid parental
leave ends for a parent.
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