Panel Members: Chair – Cllr. Julie Iles, CWO National Chairman; Gillian Keegan, MP for Chichester; Dame Helena Morrissey DBE, Head of Personal Investing at Legal and General and Founder of the 30% Club; Ellen Broome, Chief Executive of the Family and Childcare Trust; and Sarah Jackson, Chief Executive of Working Families.
In her introduction to the issue of the gender pay gap the Chairman said that 5 out of 6 full time nursery or primary teachers are women who earn less. Female medics earn 29% less than men, but that Receptionists are one of the only jobs where women earn more than men.
She went on to say that we ought to be concerned at what happened at the Ballot Box at the last election. Analysis shows that the biggest swing away from the Conservatives by 22% was from women in their 30s; the swing away from the Conservatives in the full-time working women group was by 16%. In general, women earn less, own less and are responsible for the provision of care.
She remarked that in Jeremy Corbyn's Conference speech as leader of Labour, the party which assumes the mantel of women's equality, incredibly there was no mention of any childcare policy.
Ellen Broome spoke first. She said that at the moment the pay gap stands at 18% and at the current rate would not be eradicated for 62 years. This year, the gender pay gap in the UK means that women effectively stop earning on November 10th, relative to men's year-round wages. This is the penalty of motherhood. There is a gap of 10% before children which is then incremental after children. By the time the first child is 10, the difference in earnings is significantly lower.
All income brackets are affected and there needs to be a change in working patterns to fit around childcare. Ellen believes that childcare is a resource which is as vital as rails, roads and electricity. To many parents affordable, flexible childcare remains a pipedream as it is too expensive and there simply aren't enough places. It is also not available for those, such as shift workers, who work outside the typical working day.
With childcare costs as high as they are, it just doesn't pay for women to work. Families can take home less than £2 per hour after childcare costs, and this impacts NI and pension contributions in the long-term.
Ellen is calling for three changes:
1) Every parent has to be better off to work after paying out for childcare costs
2) More support for training and upskilling after maternity breaks
3) There is a gap between parental leave and early years which needs to be offset.
The corollary of women working more is sharing more care and fathers want to be involved.
Sarah Jackson explained that her charity, Working Families, has been around for forty years. It provides free legal and practical advice to parents so that they can navigate the system. Every day she hears from women about issues they experience in the workplace. For decades women have been paying a high price in their careers for having children. There is the astronomical cost of childcare offset against women's wages rather than being seen as a general household cost. For the parents of disabled children the costs can even be three times higher.
Looking at the Millennial Parents (those under 35), those in the ordinary income bracket, childcare arrangements are starting to affect parents' decisions on whether they can take a promotion. Maria Miller, MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee in the House of Commons, feels that a solution could be the creation of a decent period of well-paid paternal leave. Those young men who do it find that it is life changing. The provision of shared parental leave is causing a culture shift. Those employers who sign up to shared parental leave will reap the rewards.
Sarah also state that she wants managers to tackle the possibility of flexible working in all roles, so that they create the right job for the right person. Flexible working is not about doing favours for men or women, but it's a policy which, for the employer, is motivated by self-interest.
Dame Helena Morrissey represented the business voice, bringing with her an optimistic message rather than one of complacency and she believes that we are increasingly moving in the right direction.
Employers realise that in order to attract the best person they need to be more transparent. By March 30th 2018 all companies will have to publish their gender pay gap. Companies are finding that as we move towards the publication deadline things are becoming quite fraught.
The government are encouraging companies to sign up to the Think, Act, Report campaign which shows individual companies commitment to gender equality in the workplace. Those who subscribe to it pledge to:
- Think: identify any issues around gender equality
- Act: take action to fix those issues
- Report: on how your business ensures gender equality
Think, Act, Report is a voluntary initiative to help employers close gender pay gaps. It's a simple step-by-step framework that helps employers include gender equality in business planning and processes.
In a recent employee survey many said that they would evaluate the published information to help them apply to companies where the gender pay gap is smaller or to apply to companies where they were actively trying to reduce it.
Dame Helena referred to a tiny article in the Financial Times which was sited on page 20, (it took some finding), stating that many companies were sailing close to the wire in publishing their gender pay gaps. The publication of this information should not come as a surprise to companies as it has been known about for two years. Once the information is published we will probably find that managerial posts will be one of the worst offenders. Price Waterhouse Coopers has aggregated a 30% salary gap and a 50% bonus gap.
Industry has a chicken and egg situation vis a vis the gender pay gap. An output based career is more about using your judgment rather than time spent working. Dame Helena related how she had had to overcome hostility at times. Business is lacking diversity, but we have to start somewhere to make improvements; those industries which fall short need to be given the opportunity to improve.
Helena said that the narrative of the publication of the gender pay gap data is going to be really important and she concluded by saying that feminism should mean equality of opportunity based on talent and ambition.
Gillian Keegan was the last of our panel to speak. As a Conservative Member of Parliament her background is unusual, in that she comes from Liverpool where Tories are few and far between! She left school at 16 to pursue an apprenticeship in engineering, from there she had a career in business, became a Councillor and was elected MP for Chichester in June. She is involved with the Fawcett Society, ‘Ask her to stand' and other political campaigns to encourage women to take their place on the green benches.
When it comes to the issue of the gender pay gap, Gillian noted that it was interesting to see that sales and retail was the sector with the lowest gap, owing to the fact that it is a sector driven by results, rather than bonuses. Gillian commented that many confuse the Gender Pay Gap and the Equal Pay issues, and she stressed that they are totally separate entities. The Gender Pay Gap comes about because women often have career breaks and have other responsibilities which prevent them from being able to work late or jump on a plane at the last minute.
Culturally, shared parental leave is about whether society accepts it. What it really needs is a number of high profile role models to take it. There is currently a culture of judgement in taking shared parental leave.
Another issue is paternity pay which is only offered at statutory levels rather than being topped up by employers. Childcare and childcare costs also contribute to decisions regarding work and we need to look at policy and what can be done, particularly when it comes to employment flexibility.
In order to get higher pay you need to be given a promotion. You need to go above the norm to get promoted. This is difficult when you have other responsibilities and your ability to grab other opportunities is curtailed.
The floor was opened to questions ranging from whether HR should take responsibility for allowing the gender pay gap which raised the concern that women may not be as assertive as men when asking for a pay rise. Helena said that Sir Philip Hampton had got himself into trouble by saying that women let pay gap happen, and that he had 'never, ever had a woman ask for a pay rise'. Helena continued that women should be valued no matter how loud they shouted. She then recounted that a man was paid one and a half times as much as a co-head who was a woman. It was a battle to get both paid the same amount. We need a culture where everyone is equally valued.
Ellen said that there was interesting data on how men and women ask for bonuses which showed that they both asked for the same, but men are better at negotiation.
The next question brought about a discussion on the merits of employers offering childcare which is something more City firms are providing. This is a move in the right direction however, places are limited and oversubscribed. Ellen believes that employers ought to provide assistance with childcare because the State doesn't. The back-up care which City firms are offering is very welcome, however, parents in the UK pay too much for childcare and employers need to have a role in helping parents with these costs in order to keep their staff. It was pointed out that this would impact small and medium sized businesses as they have different challenges to the big firms. The Federation of Small Businesses are looking into the possibility of whether maternity insurance is viable.
In France childcare is massively subsidised but their tax rates are significantly higher than outs. The average UK household will spend 25% of their income on childcare. It is very expensive and it is not surprising therefore that people drop out of the labour market. The Government should subsidise childcare as the UK is the most expensive for childcare, bar Switzerland.
Finally, someone asked how the panel suggests we push for a softer cultural change to encourage men to take shared parental leave. It was noted that in the City, that companies like PWC, Barclays and DWF are actively marketing shared parental leave to their employees. WE need to feel that the employer wants you to take it. Men are under the impression that shared parental leave will affect their career prospects.
Each of the panel summed up how they believe progress can be made in this area. Ellen said that childcare is fundamental because it enables parents to work and it has been shown that children who benefit from this have improved social mobility. Universal free childcare should be offered up until 12 or 14 years of age (when children are able to look after themselves).
Sarah said that we should remember that time is a currency as valuable as money. We should have a gender-neutral approach to employment. We need to offer balance, flexible working and tailored jobs to suit employees.
Helena said that we need to rethink the meaning of work. Most of us are still working the way our parents did. We need to accelerate the thinking that work is an activity rather than a place.
Gillian said that we need to examine the future of work; the way we see work will change. The culture needs to give permission for us to work in different ways. The culture is set by role models and if we could do that more we would cross-over to additional skills and make us more productive. We would all enjoy work more and flexibility would suit us better with work becoming a more positive journey.
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