The Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) state employers should take urgent action to close the gender pay gap.  

New research by the CMI and the EHRC expresses that, moving forward, there is a significant risk that taking action regarding the gender pay gap may become less of a priority for UK businesses.

This comes as October marks the new deadline for large organisations to publish their gender pay gap data, with this reporting having been delayed as a result of the pandemic.

However, firms were encouraged to submit prior to the deadline but research suggested the uptake was very low compared to previous years.

The number of companies who voluntarily submitted this information fell by 80 per cent compared to 2018 figures, leading to warnings that businesses may not be adequately prioritising closing the gender pay gap going forward.

This is despite research collated by the House of Commons showing that women have been adversely impacted by the pandemic including being more likely to work in sectors shut down by the pandemic and its restrictions, are more likely to have lost their job or been furloughed, and are taking on the majority of housework and childcare.

As a result of this, the CMI and EHRC have offered various ways in which businesses can try to tackle this problem moving forward.

This includes anonymising CVs and application forms to avoid unconscious bias, developing mentoring schemes for women to build skills and enable development and actively promoting shared parental leave to staff and enhancing statutory minimum paternity leave.

However, this also starts at the very early stages of recruitment through advertising jobs at all levels as open to flexible working from day and providing a clear brief, including diversity targets, to any recruitment consultants and executive search firms.

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.

With the widespread move to more flexible working, this could provide more opportunities for women, but there are also real risks of women being left out of decision making and a reduction in the support that helps women progress their career. Now that the economic ship is being steadied, it would be a stain on our national conscience to allow a two-tier workforce to emerge in the UK.

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, added:

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.