Is the pay gap really that big?

While few would dispute that a fair and equal society is a good one, the proposal to implement an annual gender pay audit to facilitate equal pay may well be missing the point.

Statistics released this week by Harriet Harman, reveal that the pay gap between men and women is as high as 23 per cent.  Yet a closer analysis of the data shows that this figure, though alarming, is also misleading.  Included in the figures is the pay of part time workers, largely women in low paid jobs.  Official figures for full time workers put the gap at a considerably lower 12.8 per cent.  And even this figure may not be wholly accurate.

In order to get a true and fair picture of a pay gap between men and women, we need a thorough and intelligent analysis of pay structures which takes into account not just the hours spent to do a job, but the work experience, the number of years in the job and the skills that the employee has to offer.  Until we have a complete breakdown of gender pay on a like for like basis, we cannot really know if there is a pay gap at all.  Discrimination is not the only reason for different pay levels.  Choice of career, progression into senior roles, career breaks to raise a family, all have a clear impact on pay.  Until a thorough job for job audit has been conducted, we cannot charge employers with discrimination. 

While we welcome any effort to remove discrimination from the workplace, it should not burden businesses with unnecessary bureaucracy.