Impact of COVID-19 means action on gender pay gap is more ‘urgent’ than ever

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) today publishes new gender pay gap guidance for UK businesses, in partnership with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

The guidance includes a raft of measures organisations should be taking, including anonymising CVs and application forms, providing diversity targets to recruitment consultants, and actively promoting shared parental leave and flexible working.

In the UK, it is mandatory for organisations of 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gap (GPG) every year, but due to the COVID-19 outbreak, enforcement of GPG reporting in 2020 was suspended. While enforcement will resume in October 2021, fears remain that action around the gender pay gap could be de-prioritised by businesses, despite clear evidence that women have been disproportionately disadvantaged during the pandemic.

Research collated by the House of Commons has shown that women are more likely to be in sectors shut down by Covid, are more likely to have lost their job or been furloughed, and are taking on the majority of housework and childcare. CMI research from February this year has also shown the challenges that working mothers face in the workplace; they are more likely to be in communication less than once a week with their manager than UK employees overall (29% compared to 23%).

Despite this, latest figures show that just over 5,000 employers – out of the approximately 12,500 in scope – have reported their gender pay gap figures ahead of the reporting deadline on 4th October 2021.

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute said: “As businesses scrambled to adapt to the impact of the pandemic, the suspension of gender pay gap reporting may have been understandable, but the evidence is now clear that women’s earnings and career prospects have been disproportionately affected by Covid. Right now, there has never been a more urgent time for awareness of the gender pay gap to be put back front and centre of policy making.

“As we emerge from the pandemic, managers and leaders are faced with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build back better and more inclusively, but progress on the gender pay gap is at real risk of being taken for granted.”

Suzanne Baxter, EHRC Commissioner, commented: “With the deadline for gender pay gap reporting fast approaching, employers should look beyond the numbers and start considering what action they are going to take to close their pay gaps. This is more important than ever. The pandemic has had specific effects on women in the workplace and if we want to continue the progress that has been made towards workplace equality, then action to address the causes of pay gaps needs to be a key priority.”