More than a quarter of UK senior personnel do not see the gender pay gap as an issue for businesses, according to research by HR and payroll provider NGA Human Resources (NGA HR).
The Fawcett Society currently calculates the pay gap to be 13.9%. However, 29% of those surveyed said they do not see it as a problem.
Men in senior positions were found to be much less likely to see the gender pay gap as an issue than women. A third of men (35%) said it was not an issue, compared with a fifth of women (22%).
The fact that women are more likely to take career breaks (49%) or work part time (42%) were identified as the main factors for pay disparities. Other reasons for the gender pay gap that were suggested were the lack of representation of women in the overall workforce (20%) and fewer women in senior management positions (27%).
To combat the gender pay gap pay levelling (benchmarking pay across levels, assigning value to individual positions and ensuring that men and women are paid the same at each level) was seen as the number one solution (57%). There was also significant support for back-to-work schemes (49%) and positive recruitment programmes, such as the government’s Budget funding for returnships (47%).
Geoff Pearce, managing consultant of reward at NGA HR, said that businesses must take action if there is to be progress in closing the gap.
“It is cause for concern that a significant proportion of business leaders still do not take the gender pay gap seriously," he said. "While compulsory reporting is imminent, progress towards closing the gap will only be made if firms are prepared to put meaningful programmes in place. The government’s recent funding for returnships is a step in the right direction, yet it is up to individual businesses to develop them if the pay gap is to be reduced for good.
"By addressing their pay gap organisations will not just have good figures to report on paper, but the commercial benefits of a diverse and fairly remunerated workforce – improving performance, productivity and profitability.”
Petra Wilton, director of strategy at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), said that gender balance in business is essential for boosting the UK's low productivity levels.
"The government’s gender pay gap reporting regulations will certainly help improve the situation, shining a spotlight on this issue and encouraging employers to set targets for change," she said. "However, as it stands businesses are failing to achieve a balance of men and women in senior management roles, or to attract and retain women to some of the better remunerated occupations. It is now up to management teams to lead by example."
Gender pay gap reporting regulations come into effect on 6 April. Employers will be required to publish information on their gender pay gap and gender bonus gap on an annual basis. While employers must collect data from April 2017 they do not have to publish it until April 2018.