By s1jobs


The gender pay gap has fallen to an all-time low – or has it?

Figures released recently by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) sparked a flurry of headlines proclaiming that the difference in median hourly earnings between men and women is now at 7.4 per cent for full time-employees. That snapshot from April was down from 9% in 2019, as tracked by the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE).

But scratch a bit beneath the surface and the narrative isn’t as clear-cut. Including part-time workers, the gap still falls, but only to 15.5% against 17.4% previously.

These shrinking percentages also hide significant variations between different age groups. When looking at full-time employees under the age of 40, the pay gap calculated by ASHE is close to zero, but it rises to more than 10% for those above that age.

Another issue is that the numbers from ASHE are separate to annual gender gap reporting figures submitted by companies with 250 or more staff.

READ MORE: Women will ‘fight our way back’ from Covid’s pay assault

The legal requirement for the latter was suspended this year in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, and as a result, the number of employers that have reported to date has fallen by nearly half. Of the 5,800 or so who did submit figures, an analysis by Business in the Community found that the gap had widened to 12.8% from 11.9% a year earlier.

There is also the “furlough effect” to contend with: with a higher proportion of men than women on wage support schemes, any figures that include furloughed workers – versus those that have lost their jobs or been forced to quit to cover caring responsibilities – will automatically lead to a narrowing of the pay gap.

Coming from the early part of the year, the data from ASHE will not have captured the full impact of Covid-19 on the earning power of women. A variety of surveys have repeatedly shown that women, and mothers in particular, are more likely to have quit their jobs, been made redundant or be working fewer hours than men during the pandemic.

READ MORE: Scots women face 'shocking' £5,745-a-year gender pension gap

Amid so much economic turmoil, it’s understandably easy to accept the top-line take on improving pay parity, and then move on to other concerns. But much is down to the interpretation of the pay data, which itself is incomplete.

It is vital that organisations analyse their own data to understand how the pandemic is continuing to affect individual groups in their workforce. Only then will it be possible to create a plan to restore the talent pipeline.