Businesses should report on their ethnicity and disability pay gaps as well as their gender pay gaps, according to a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government, in society and in businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people. This includes extending pay gap reporting to cover ethnicity and disability.
The report highlighted worrying pay gaps between different demographics, with male Bangladeshi immigrants experiencing the largest pay gap (of 48%). Female Bangladeshi immigrants and Pakistani immigrants both experienced around a 12% pay gap when compared with white British women.
Disabled people were also found to experience a large pay discrepancy. Men with epilepsy have a pay gap close to 40% and women with epilepsy have a 20% pay gap, compared to non-disabled men and women respectively. Men with depression or anxiety have a pay gap of around 30%, while women with the same conditions have a pay gap of 10%.
Caroline Waters, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the UK needs “radical change” to achieve equality. “We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top,” she said. “Female representation is important but tackling pay gaps is far more complicated than that. 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.
“The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of the work we still need to do to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths. These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression. For this to change we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm – looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.”
The report also called on businesses to provide greater support to fathers by making paternity leave a more effective incentive, improving access to childcare, and ensuring all jobs are advertised as flexible.
Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community (BITC), welcomed this news. “We know that employers getting race equality in the workplace right is worth £24 billion per year to the UK economy,” she said. “Flexibility at work is not only helpful for those with caring responsibilities for children or parents, but also supports those who may need a reasonable adjustment for disability, who wish to downshift their working pattern because of age, or who need flexibility for religious observance.”
Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said employers need to challenge their attitudes about what flexible working is for. “While the right to request flexible working is available to all UK workers who have worked for the same employer for 26 weeks, it is yet to be recognised as such in practice,” she said. “To make flexible working the norm it’s crucial that organisations challenge assumptions of who it is for and encourage far greater uptake.
"HR professionals have a critical role in questioning workplace cultures and busting the myths around what flexible working means to encourage businesses to act differently. Through recognition that flexibility is not just about the hours people work and challenging traditionally rigid job design, organisations can create ‘people-shaped jobs’ that enable those with a range of circumstances to access and reach their potential at work, while boosting long-term productivity.”