Employers have just one week left to report their 2020/21 gender pay gap, but it has been warned that furlough may have skewed their data.
Organisations in the public and private sectors have until Tuesday 5 October 2021 to report their data, on the government website, following a six-month extension that was granted due to the impact of Covid-19.
At the time of publication, more than 6,103 employers had submitted their reports, out of an estimated 11,000 eligible organisations.
However, technology and consulting company Spktral, which has developed software that helps with pay gap analysis, said firms should not take the percentages in their 2020/21 reports at face value. This is because there was a high number of employees on reduced pay because of furlough on the 31 March 2020 and 5 April 2020 snapshot dates for the public and private sectors respectively.
“Gender pay gap reporting is in place to bring about better gender equality in the workplace, which we can only achieve with timely, accurate and consistent data. Companies must analyse their entire workforce (furloughed or otherwise) in order to gain a true picture of where they stand and to drive accountability, action and improvement,” said Fiona Hathorn, CEO of Women on Boards UK and an advisory board member at Spktral.
Gender pay gap
Last year, the Government Equality Office (GEO) confirmed that furlough is a form of leave. Unless employers had topped up furloughed staff’s pay to 100%, they did not meet the gender pay gap reporting legislation’s criteria for full pay and should be excluded from the gender pay gap section of their reports.
However, these employees’ pay data still needs to be included in gender bonus gap calculations.
Spktral said that the GEO should have introduced the percentage of employees excluded due to furlough as another reporting metric for 2020/21. Because it has not done so, Spktral said gender pay gap reports would not be entirely accurate, nor will employers be able to use their figures to accurately compare progress.
Despite the widespread use of the furlough scheme, which is set to be withdrawn on Thursday (30 September), it is widely held that the pandemic has had a positive impact on gender diversity as greater acceptance of home working has alleviated some of the childcare issues that held back women’s progress at work.
A YouGov survey for the BBC found that 56% of women thought working from home would help them progress at work, while 65% of managers felt it could help advance women’s careers.
However, perceptions of the benefits of home working varied between regions and age groups. The greatest believers in the career benefits were those aged between 18 and 24 (65%) and women in London (61%), while only 49% of women in Scotland agreed.
Fifty-seven per cent of women in the ABC1 demographic, those in managerial or professional white-collar roles, thought home working could help their careers, while 53% in the C2DE lower socio-economic group said the same.
Daisy Hooper, head of policy at the Chartered Management Institute, said gender pay gap reporting had driven progress towards equity, but the fact that women were more likely to have lost their jobs or been furloughed as a result of the pandemic might have hindered progress.
“It is essential for leaders to prioritise implementing action plans to remedy issues identified by the [gender pay gap] data and through consultation with their employees. Training all managers to role-model and implement the practices that support women to thrive benefits all workers, and will ensure that together we build back better and more inclusively,” said Hooper.