With much of the data having now been gathered as to the gender pay gaps within large companies and charities in the UK, we could choose any employer at random and there would likely be a frightening concern with the data that has been obtained.
Let’s look at Tesco as an example. It was reported earlier this year that the retail giant faces a record claim in the eye-watering sum of £4bn as it was revealed that male distribution centre workers may earn over £11 an hour in comparison to female store staff earning circa £8 per hour.
We could debate the legal and commercial arguments of both sides and discuss ideal initiatives that would see employers committing to a regime that ensures equal pay for same-grade employees irrespective of gender, but at this stage in the game, it often feels that employers and even their critics are losing sight of the bigger picture.
What is this bigger picture? To truly tackle the issue of gender discrimination in the workplace, it is abundantly clear that we need to go beyond seeking equal pay for women.
Initiatives such as TimesUp and #MeToo continue to take the media by storm and have become household concepts. It is a frequent occurrence to see countless brave women coming forward each day seeking justice for crimes committed against them, and it is therefore no surprise that the Fawcett Society has recently reported that half of all women have experienced sexual harassment at work in the UK.
There is no doubt that we have significantly progressed since gender discrimination was first recognised in legislation in the mid 1970s, but here we are over 40 years later with a system that can (and continues to) fail to protect the female workforce.
When considering what safeguards we can put in place, for example to prevent sexual harassment, it is reasonable to suggest that strengthening the current harassment laws would be extremely welcomed. However, the burden does not lie with the legislature in making a difference for women in work, but also employers.
If employers seek to show that they are truly advocates for equality, now is the time to revolutionise their workplaces to show a commitment to ensuring fairness for women. Protection against the gender pay gap, sexual harassment as well as ensuring more opportunities for flexible working are all key ingredients to painting this bigger, brighter future.
A law introduced last year requires companies and charities with more than 250 workers – covering almost half of Britain’s workforce – to report their gender pay gap each year by April 4. Men in Britain earn on average 18.4 percent more than women, according to government data published last year. HSBC and Virgin Atlantic had the biggest gender pay difference of companies in the UK with more than 5,000 employees, at 59 and 58 percent respectively, according to a Reuters data analysis which used the mean as the measure.