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Kate Nowicki: The gender pay gap - can the tortoise become a hare?

Wednesday 12 April 2017

Kate Nowicki, Acas East Midlands Area Director, discusses the gender pay gap.

Kate Nowicki Kate Nowicki

Kate Nowicki is an Acas Area Director based in Nottingham.



Some analysts believe that, at the current rate of progress, it may take 50-70 years to close the gender pay gap. That means that I, along with most of you, won't be working (or alive) to see the day.

Of course, it should happen much sooner. The introduction of mandatory gender pay reporting from 6 April is certainly an encouraging sign that the gap can start to narrow more quickly. Organisations with over 250 employees will be required to produce a gender pay report setting out the different levels of pay between men and women.

A typical report may show, for example, that on average men earn 10% more pay per hour than women, that men earn 5% more in bonuses per year than women, or that the lowest paid quarter of the workforce is mostly female.

But how will these findings act as a real driver for employer action? From a personal and professional point of view, I passionately hope that they will encourage employers to:

  • be honest in examining the opportunities for women in their workforce and addressing the barriers
  • be imaginative and positive in looking for solutions
  • scrutinise the processes which unwittingly deter women from promotion
  • review the support they give to women on maternity leave, women returners, to staff with elder care responsibilities and to single parents
  • challenge the current orthodoxy about how things work. For example, a large accountancy firm I know had a 'first come first served' policy for filling internal promotions. The problem is that women are much more likely to be cautious and wait until the last minute, if at all, before they apply. This means that it's often the men who bag the interviews and get promoted. 

Although some fixes are relatively simple, the gender pay gap is stubborn to shift and we must be realistic. For some employers it will just be a tick box exercise. Others will be spurred on by reputational concerns rather than issues of fairness (if the end result is the same, does it matter?). More than a few, hopefully, will be converted.

If you are confused about any aspect of gender pay reporting right, take a look at our gender pay gap reporting advice page, which includes guidance for public and private/voluntary sectors, as well as useful downloads such as 'Gender pay reporting: obligations for employers'. We are also happy to explode the top ten myths about gender pay reporting, such as "There's not much of a gender pay gap these days is there?"; "I need to be a maths genius to understand this stuff"; and "Does this mean I can't reward talented staff for hard work any more?"

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