HR departments are not doing enough to close the gender gap at work, and must develop areas such as training to help address varying levels of pay between men and women, equality campaigners have urged.
The latest report by the Women and Work Commission, set up by the government to help eradicate inequality, found the gender pay gap has grown for full-time roles from 12.5% in 2007 to 12.8%. For hourly roles, the gap was as much as 22.6% compared to 21.9% in 2007.
The report claimed a lack of government action to tackle gender stereotypes in schools had contributed to women’s pay failing to catch up with that of men’s.
But according to Working Families, the body that supports parents at work, HR departments need to take the initiative and encourage flexible work by developing management understanding of how to effectively manage this working practice.
Elizabeth Gardiner, policy and parliamentary campaigns officer at Working Families, told Personnel Today: “HR needs to ensure there is more training around how to manage flexible workers. Allowing employees to ask their managers whether they can work flexible hours is fine, but managers need to know how best to manage those employees.”
Other bodies responded to the Women at Work Commission’s report findings with calls for HR to take the leading role in encouraging their organisations to make employee pay levels public.
Sharon Smee, policy officer at the Fawcett Society, said: “HR has a key role in terms of pushing for equal pay audits, making public who is paid what. This will then deal with any pay discrepancies within the organisation – HR should recommend that this be carried out.”
Unions also agreed that ensuring clarity and transparency around pay levels for both men and women will help to close the gender gap, and this is a responsibility that lies with the HR department.
Brendan Barber, general secretary at the TUC, said: “A good HR department, working in conjunction with a trade union, can easily reduce and even eradicate any pay gaps within an organisation. Ensuring transparency in company pay systems and opening up flexible working to all staff are the kind of policies that can make a real difference.”
Supporting women on their return to work after a career break will also help to drive down the growing gap between men and women, added Smee.
“The other issue is looking at women returning from career breaks, and making sure they get the right training in terms of encouraging them into high positions within the company,” she said.