How we achieved a zero gender pay gap at St Mungo's

Culture, selection processes, performance management, diversity training, a transparent pay system and flexi-time have all contributed

At St Mungo’s we returned a zero gender pay gap both this year and last. We’ve now looked into why and here’s what we found.

Firstly, we have put a tremendous amount of work into building a shared culture of diversity, inclusion and mutual respect. Our selection process is designed to weed out those with biased views, including outdated mindsets about women.

Secondly, our performance management and development scheme is our essential framework for supporting all individuals to achieve their potential and aspirations, so we monitor whether it is consistently applied by all managers. Our learning and development provision includes workshops to develop confidence when seeking promotion and an internal mentoring scheme.

Alongside mandatory diversity training for all managers and staff we also have active diversity networks for different groups, including a Women’s Action Network. We have clear consultation and accountability structures for promoting diversity.

We also operate a rigorous assessment centre and competency-based approach so that all appointments and promotions are made solely on merit demonstrated against objective criteria.

Moreover, we have a simple, fair and transparent pay system. Our pay is determined with reference to job evaluation; more senior roles paid outside of this structure are remunerated on salaries determined by independent market testing. We don’t do performance-related pay, bonuses or any of the trappings that can lead to unintended consequences in terms of equality and fairness. We pay people for their roles and we manage their performance – two distinctly separate issues.

But most importantly perhaps, we offer a wide range of flexible working options. Many of our female employees at all levels opt to return part time or to work a condensed week following maternity leave.

We also offer flexi-time, which used to be quite common once upon a time but seems to be as rare as hen’s teeth these days. Apart from those on rota shifts or a few roles where working times have to be fixed, staff can flex their start and finish times. They can bank the hours they work over their contracted weekly hours and book the accrued time off as flexi-leave. Most unusually of all, this applies even to senior managers.

The tide has turned against flexi-time; a lot of employers now feel the need to have their staff, particularly senior personnel, working what is effectively unpaid overtime. It seems to be the norm that senior managers have it either explicitly or implicitly in their contracts that they are expected to work ‘as many hours as needed to get the job done’.

There also appears to be a fear that organisations will descend into chaos if people aren’t kept to a strict nine to five pattern – except if they’re happy to work additional unpaid hours of course. In my experience this mindset is far from economically efficient. Flexi-time enables women or men who are primary carers – and it is still usually women – to undertake senior roles that they would not otherwise logistically be able to fulfil. Even where people opt to work part time or condensed working weeks, the flexi-time scheme offers an additional layer to help them balance their work and caring responsibilities.

HR professionals are constantly striving for the Holy Grail of engagement and retention via sophisticated reward schemes. But good old-fashioned flexi-time is by far the most popular benefit that has been offered wherever I have worked.

Whatever we may have lost in unpaid overtime we have more than made up for in terms of employee engagement, health and wellbeing, recruitment and retention… and of course a zero gender pay gap.

Helen Giles is executive director of people and governance at St Mungo’s

This piece appeared in the September print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk