If Flexible Working Will Close The Gender Pay Gap Why Aren’t We Doing More About It?


by Elizabeth Bennett |
Published on

A new report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission has highlighted flexible working as its primary recommendation to improve gender equality in the workplace. The cross-party watchdog has called for all UK jobs to be advertised as flexible in order to tackle the pay imbalance between men and women - currently a gap of 18.1%.

‘We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps. While 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,’ said Caroline Waters, the deputy chair of the EHRC.

While the government’s gender pay gap initiative brought in earlier this year will force companies to publicly reveal their gap, it is clear that this transparency alone is not all that is needed to drive the fundamental change that will bring about equality. The same applies in making changes at the top. Although addressing the gender imbalance within the highest ranks of companies is crucial - after all, there are still more men named John leading FTSE 100 companies than women - these things alone will never remedy the stark disparity.

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Until women are able to continue with their chosen career path alongside having a family, the gender pay gap will remain solidly intact. It is simply facts of biology that women need to reproduce for our human race to continue, yet we are still being punished for doing so. It is also fact that women cannot have children without changing their working pattern at some point, and if we do not have the opportunity to work flexibly - whether that’s part-time, a job-share or from home - we will be continued to be forced out of higher paid roles.

Since the change of law in 2014, all employees who have worked for a company for 26 weeks or more have the right to request flexible working hours from their employer. However, company culture in many businesses means that in reality many women cannot work the different hours their home life requires.

It is not just about women though, the stigma around men working flexibly also needs to change. The Equality and Human Rights Commission called for increased paternity leave, and time and time again it has been proven that putting women and men on a level playing field on this increases equality. In fact, The Guardian reported that a study in Sweden found that for every month a father took paid leave, the mother’s future earnings increased by 7%. Similarly, the sooner we make flexible working an essential for all, not just an issue about women, the better off we'll all be.

READ MORE: Could Your Working Hours Be More Flexible?

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