Nov 11th 2016

Equal pay day, equal practices every day

The current gender wage gap was marked yesterday by Equal Pay Day, the point in the calendar at which a woman’s salary is hypothetically frozen until the end of the year.

There exists an 18.1% pay differential (or 13.9% for those in full-time roles) between male and female earnings in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics. In terms of annual salary, the 2015 CIPR State of the Profession survey highlighted that a clear pay inequality gap of £12,591 exists in favour of men. This news resonated around the Babel office yesterday with a mixture of disgust and disbelief. No such pay gap exists here at Babel; the women in our team were hired for just the same mix of experience, motivation and ability as their male counterparts, and are rewarded as such.

The disparity in pay can be partially attributed to the inescapable fact that if a couple wants a child, it is the woman who will have to take leave from work to give birth. Often, though, it is the also woman who will care of the child in the early months, extending the time period until she returns to work and potentially, the period until she is earning a full salary.

Unless we see extremely rapid innovation in the science of reproduction, a woman’s role as a mother will not change. What we can change though is employers’ approaches and the HR strategies they adopt to ensure a supportive, flexible – and equal – working environment. It’s important to stress here that it is not only mothers who should benefit from flexible working. Instead, this working practice should extend to all employees. Even the idea of flexible working as a ‘benefit’ to be ‘earned’ is a flawed one, as too many employees today feel they must show their worth before broaching the subject of an altered working pattern. As such, here at Babel we emphasise the need for a stable work/life balance, for all employees, regardless of gender, background and circumstance.

In a global workplace survey of 8,000 employers and employees conducted by Vodafone this year, 83% of respondents said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity. By optimising their approach to flexible working, UK organisations stand to benefit from cost reductions and productivity gains running up to £8.1 billion, according to an earlier study by the think tank RSA and Vodafone UK. These are just two of countless examples of the rewards of flexible working for employees and businesses. This is a practice which needs to be normalised for both genders, and not be seen as a special measure for certain employees. Rather, it allows a workforce to work smarter, achieve a better work/life balance, and drive productivity as a result.

Change will demand effort on both sides. Employees shouldn’t be afraid to ask for changes in their working hours or location for fear of being seen as less career focused. Businesses have a duty to foster this open environment, encouraging an open and supportive atmosphere in which the needs and requests of every member of a workforce are considered, respected, and acted upon.  Yesterday’s Equal Pay Day for women marks a significant wrong which needs to be addressed, but the need for equal working practices every day, and for all, should not be ignored.