Let’s Talk About Pay Gaps

Ever since the UK Government announced compulsory gender pay gap reporting in 2015 for companies employing upwards of 250 people, pay gap and pay equality have been HR’s top trending topic. Broadening the debate to include disability and ethnicity pay has increased the volume on a subject that is highlighting conflict between fairness and what might be the bigger picture.

I am going to step back and look at why pay gap reporting isn’t as black and white as it seems. First, let’s take a moment to look at the progress report on gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps published this week by The Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The report shows that government-led strategies and employer interventions have the potential to reduce pay gaps identified for women, disabled people and ethnic minorities. Pay gap audits, national minimum wage, reasonable adjustments and flexible working rights all support the government’s pledge for equal pay, whilst employers have taken steps to remove unconscious bias in recruitment processes and better support mothers returning from maternity leave. Unconscious bias training is a significant recommendation from the report, as is “removing personal details from application forms”. The aim is to eliminate bias, which can exist consciously or unconsciously. This BBC article from earlier in the year is a sad but true example of race discrimination in the recruitment process. It does exist and from 2017, all UCAS applications will be name-blind to remove any unconscious bias.

Much of the discussion on the gender pay gap focusing on a negative assumption that pay gaps exist because of gender prejudice. Whilst it is evident that discrimination and unconscious bias do exist, are they the sole reason for pay gaps? Let’s take a look at some other reasons that may affect the gender pay gap:

  • Women are more likely than men to take a career break to raise children, slowing down career and therefore pay progression
  • Women are less likely to ask for a pay raise. Whilst many companies operate annual pay reviews, many pay increases are the result of individual requests or negotiations
  • Women are more likely than men to work in part-time positions. More companies are realising the value of part-time roles, but historically flexible opportunities have been few and far between at senior levels due to fear of impact on productivity
  • All of the above points (career breaks, less likely to negotiate, working part time) may slow down the career climb, impacting the number of women in senior positions

These are not the fault of the employer or the government. There is no fault here. They are facts. Where a woman has reached the same level in her a career as a man and the jobs have been evaluated as equal (remember an equal job title doesn’t neccesarily mean an equal role – a fact often ignored in the pay gap debate), then of course she should be paid the same. She also has the right to reach that point in her career for the same reasons as her male counterpart. As does he.

So if other reasons exist for pay gaps that are not discriminatory and are not necessarily negative, is it right to force a closure of the pay gap?

I believe in equality and fairness, both of which should be reflected in the pay of a job. I question whether the focus should be on the pay of women, disabled employees and ethnic minorities as it can not only promote positive discrimination, but encourage a lack of understanding of what an individual brings to a role beyond their protected characteristic. Instead, we should compare the pay of jobs. Equal pay for equal jobs. Equal opportunities for all. This is the objective of pay gap reporting, but by focusing on the gap, it forces employers to meet a statistic to close a gap. To address the grass root issue, we need to focus on embedding awareness of gender, disabilities and ethnicities (not to mention other characteristics, such as sexuality and religion) to remove prejudices.

It’s OK if there are not equal numbers of men, women, disabled, non-disabled, black, white and Asian employees on an organisation’s board. What’s not OK is if people in certain gender, ability or ethnicity groups do not have an equal opportunity to join the board. This starts with society, runs through the family, community and every employer and organisation. Once we encourage, not limit, we can stop identifying people as minority groups and start celebrating individuality.

Find out more:

BLOG Flexible Working: what’s the big deal?

Access to Work Factsheet for Employers

How to Become a Disability Confident Employer

Business in the Community: Race at Work

ACAS Gender Pay Gap Reporting

Fawcett Society Gender Pay Gap Series



How to Hire for Culture Fit

Culture fit in the workplace can be the golden ticket to securing on-the-job success. In Recruitment, getting this part of the jigsaw wrong could lead to low retention, high costs and a poor employer brand. Get it right and you’re on track to ensuring the right people in the right place at the right time.

I recently shared ‘3 Interview Tips to Help You Find Your Culture Fit’ on LinkedIn, supporting candidates to find the right employer. Now let’s move across to the employer’s seat, where success requires some groundwork in the lead up to interview stage. Here is my advice for hiring for your organisation’s culture to ensure you recruit employees that will stay, feel great and make a positive difference to the business.

1. Know Your Employees

shutterstock_573611710Put simply, ensure you understand the workforce you are adding to before you add to it.

Perhaps your company has communicated values, behaviours and a mission statement. Find out if your employees share and demonstrate these (if not, do they need to change?). Know what drives employees at your organisation, what gets them out of bed in the morning and why they work where they work. Get to know why people leave and why people stay – this will help you understand what makes a <inset your company name here> employee.

2. Get Your Employer Brand Right

Armed with knowledge of your employees, combined with knowledge of the business and its direction, you’ll need some marketing expertise and a passion for the brand to share the right image of your company as an employer.

Ensure your employer brand is aligned with your customer brand, incorporates your employee insights, has leadership buy-in and a clear purpose. Who do you want to attract, why and how? If employees are leaving with short-service because they feel misled or disappointed, it is likely that your employer brand needs some attention. Don’t just attract anyone; attract the people that will fit.

3. Ask the Right Questions at Interview

So you know what you are looking for in your next hire, your brand is attracting great candidates… now it’s time to ensure you get the right-fit talent through the door. Interviews are not just an opportunity to find out about skills, knowledge and behaviours, but the chance to predict how a potential hire might adapt to life in your workplace. Here are some questions you might consider:

Why did you leave your last job?

It’s a classic interview question, but don’t just ask it. Use it as an opportunity to find out about the candidate’s last or current work experience, if appropriate.

Describe your ideal workplace / management style / job.shutterstock_552386662

Asking the candidate to speak about their utopia allows you to assess the likelihood of them being happy in your organisation. This question enables you to explore what makes the candidate tick and perhaps what type of workplace would not be suitable.

What did you learn in your last job?

This will draw out approaches to challenge, pressure and initiative. Listen outside the obvious, where answers relate to personal growth rather than skills gained on a training programme. How the candidate speaks of previous employers will also give you some insight into their personality.

What do you expect it would be like to work here?

The candidate’s interpretation of the company and role may differ to your intentions. How closely their expectations match reality will help determine their cultural fit. Consider whether the candidate who is looking forward to working in an autonomous environment will be the right hire, if you know the structure is much more traditional.

What frustrates you? / What motivates you?

Everyone has drivers, just like everyone has challenges. These questions (or variances of them – try ‘bores’ and ‘inspires’) will help you get to know the candidate. Recruiting all employees in mirror image of one another is not a good idea so bear that in mind, but look out for any red lights that suggest a poor fit.

Finding great hires that fit your organisation’s culture needn’t be difficult, but it does require dedication and commitment. Know your employees, get your employer brand right, ask the right questions at interview and you will be better placed to offer candidates who will not only stay and enjoy themselves, but will make a positive difference to the working environment and the wider company.

What’s next? If you are considering a HR consultant to drive forward company culture management, from aligning your employer brand to engaging your employees, contact Stevie Barnes to find out how People² can support your business and workplace.

Flexible Working: what’s the big deal?

Everyone is talking about flexible working. Some employers are celebrating flexibility and being celebrated for it, whilst others tread slowly in fear of a drop in productivity if employees start controlling how and when they work. Employees however, are calling for it. Here I’m going to give you an employer’s introduction to flexible working and explain how it can have a positive impact on productivity and yes, even that all important bottom line.

What is Flexible Working?

You guessed it: the clue is in the title and there is no one-size-fits-all. Working flexibly is about adapting working time to accommodate the wider needs of the individual, enabling them to balance work and life more effectively. In each case it may include one or more of the following:

  • Annualised Hours
  • Job Sharing
  • Flexitime
  • Part time or Compressed hours
  • Phased Retirement
  • Shift Working
  • Staggered Hours
  • Term Time Working
  • Time off in Lieu
  • Working from Home
  • Zero Hours Contracts

Who is it for?

Flexible working is commonly associated with parents and carers, who have had the right to request flexible working since the UK government first introduced the legislation back in 2003. Yet it is not only those juggling care responsibilities who would like a flexible working pattern. CMI research has shown that 60% of employees want their employers to provide flexible working and with mobile technologies on the rise, it’s easier now than ever.

UK Legislation

Since June 2014, all UK employees who have been with their employer for at least 26 weeks have the right to request flexible working. This is known as ‘making a statutory application’. Employers are responsible for dealing with such applications in a ‘reasonable manner’, which may include an assessment, meeting with the employee and providing an appeal process. This is typically within 3 months and any agreed changes will be stipulated in revised terms & conditions issued to the employee.

Employees have the right to complain to an employment tribunal if they disagree with the outcome.

It is recommended that employers have a Flexible Working policy. If you don’t have a suitable policy, need advice on handling flexible working requests or would like to create a flexible workplace for your employees, contact People² to discuss a tailored solution.

What are the employer benefits?

Fortunately there has been a lot of research into flexible working. Studies by the CIPD have shown that the top 3 benefits of flexible working for employees are better work-life balance (54%), reduced stress/pressure (29%) and improved employer loyalty (28%). The increased time that employees had to spend time with children, family and to dedicate to hobbies and personal interests is proven to lead to increased positivity, which in turn leads to increased productivity at work.

It’s a simple logic. A stressed, unhappy employee who feels their employer does not value them will be less productive than an employee who can come to work relaxed, happy and feeling valued by their employer. Think of it as a way of maximising return on investment.

A recent CBI report found that 61% of organisations have taken steps to introduce flexible working practices in the past 5 years and recognised flexible working in the top 5 drivers of employee engagement. To ensure your organisation is not left behind, contact People² today.

Flexible working doesn’t just appeal to your existing employees. Powwownow research has shown that 70% of people feel that offering flexible working makes a job more attractive to them. So with attraction, retention and engagement being significantly impacted by your flexible working offering, the connection with business success starts to become clear.

Finding the Balance

What if you need all of your employees to be in the office, or part-time is just not an option? Don’t panic. For an organisation accustomed to every employee working the same hours Monday to Friday all under one roof, the idea of offsetting the norm can seem a bit daunting. Here are some steps to get started and find the unique balance in your organisation:

  1. Critically assess the different types of flexible working options and the potential impact on different levels, functions and areas of your organisation
  2. Listen to your employees, perhaps through informal discussion, focus groups or a survey to understand what flexible options they would be interested in
  3. Look at what your competitors or other local businesses are offering to employees in relation to flexible working and compare to your employee wish list
  4. Plan a small scale pilot to further understand and test the impact
  5. Continue to measure performance and listen to employees before during and after the pilot phase to forecast the impact if you were to implement

Implementing flexibility in your working practices does not have to be a burden and it does not have to be for then sake of compliance or tick-box exercises. Understanding what flexible working is, how it impacts employees and their work can help organisations understand the benefits in driving business forward.

If you are considering moving forward with flexible working in your organisation and would like to engage with an external consultant, why not discuss your options with People²? Not only will you benefit from competitive rates and broad industry and organisation experience, but Stevie can guarantee a tailored approach to suit your individual business requirements. Please visit the Contact or About pages for more information.