Q: In light of recent events in the media, how can I improve gender equality in my workplace?
The resignation of Carrie Gracie as BBC News China editor over the corporation’s gender pay disparity is the latest indication of the importance of ensuring gender equality in the workplace.
Last July the media giant revealed the salary figures of employees earning more than £150,000 a year. Ms Gracie’s decision to quit was due to male colleagues in similar positions receiving larger salaries than her, and her unwillingness to “collude” in what she believed to be “unlawful pay discrimination towards female staff by the BBC”.
It is vital that pay is based on the job role and not the gender of the individual doing it. The 2010 Equality Act legally required equal pay for men and women doing comparable work. However, there is recognition of a pay gap between the genders, which the government has recently made efforts to encourage employers to rectify. A toolkit recently released by the Government Equalities Office can help employers become more aware of actions they can take to improve gender equality in their workplaces.
The government has also recently introduced the gender pay gap reporting requirement, which forces businesses with 250 employees or more to review and make public the level of pay disparity between male and female employees. Once made public, reports of pay disparities are likely to result in complaints, grievances and legal claims from employees.
To guard against this, an employer could implement a formal pay structure to increase transparency around pay levels. Any decision on pay increases or promotions should be made objectively, with each employee informed of the reasoning behind the decision.
As well as pay, there are other areas which should be addressed to ensure gender equality in the workplace. The recruitment process is one in which discrimination often occurs. To avoid this, it would be wise to advertise for the role using multiple platforms, ensuring diversity of applicants. The language used in job adverts should be gender-neutral to avoid alienating candidates of either gender. During the interviewing and selection process, at least two people should be present to reduce the risk of discrimination or bias.
Offering family-friendly benefits can also help improve gender equality. A business can show a positive attitude by implementing a shared parental leave policy. This would enable female employees to take time off for the benefit of their families, while also supporting male employees who wish to share the responsibility of childcare. Increased maternity pay over and above the statutory rate will also provide additional workplace support and encourage staff retention.
Peter Done is managing director of law firm Peninsula