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22 January 2018

This wasn't about the gender pay gap

I doubt if many of the trolls currently savaging Channel 4’s Cathy Newman will have actually watched her interview with Canadian academic and cultural critic Jordan Peterson - it was too long and too technical. Those who can only tweet are unlikely to understand the term ‘multivariate analysis’, a statistical technique, which as Peterson rightly pointed out, is essential to our understanding of the gender pay gap.

It’s more likely that the abusers will have been fired up by sight of the clip that was aired; this showed Peterson saying to Newman that she’d given him a hard time. In the context of what had gone before, including a discussion between the two of the trait of ‘agreeableness’ and of how majoring on agreeableness wasn’t going to secure a pay rise, Peterson was just continuing the conversation. Taken out of context in the interview as a whole, and in the context of an abbreviated clip, Peterson appeared like a man righteously indignant at not having been given a fair hearing.
In terms of its treatment of the gender pay gap, the interview could have been better. Neither Newman nor Peterson understood the distinction between fairness and equality. We all understand fairness, or think we do, but very few of us understand equality. I’m not sure I do, even after thirty years in the game. And, sometimes, in order to achieve equality, it’s necessary to be unfair - that’s because much inequality derives from past unfairness. For those who perceive themselves as being on the receiving end of the unfairness aimed at redressing past inequalities, the world is out to get them - hence the continuing unpopularity of positive discrimination.
Neither participant was particularly well-briefed, but to my mind, Peterson showed a better understanding of the gender pay gap. He was selective with the facts, and I don’t agree with his conclusions, but I meet with that every day of the week. Peterson could have accepted that discrimination can have a part to play in the gender pay gap. Newman could have accepted that factors other than discrimination are at play. But this kind of interview is not about moving the debate on by finding the middle ground, it’s about seeking out and heightening divisions. And unfortunately, in doing just that, it’s put Newman at risk.

The reaction to the Newman - Peterson interview is a gauge of how far women have yet to go. The problem it has highlighted is not the gender pay gap, but that a woman cannot interview a man about issues relevant to women without putting her personal safety at risk.

17 January 2018

Over 63 per cent of the gender pay gap still unexplained

The Office for National Statistics (the ONS) has today published an analysis which uses regression techniques to provide more insight in to the factors which affect the gender pay gap.

Using the headline measure of gender pay gap, the ONS found the gender pay gap for full-time workers to be entirely in favour of men for all occupations. However, the smallest gender pay gaps are in areas that have almost equal employment shares between men and women.
The analysis found that 36.1 per cent of the gender pay gap could be explained by differences in characteristics included in the model, but that occupation has the largest effect since it explains 23.0 per cent of the differences between men’s and women’s log hourly pay.
This means that 63.9 per cent of the gap cannot be explained, and the ONS suggests that their analysis would benefit from information on family structures, education and career breaks; without these the unexplained element is over-stated. Factors such as the number of children, the age of children, whether parents have any caring responsibilities, the number of years spent in school and the highest level of qualification achieved are likely to improve the estimation of men’s and women’s pay structures and consequently decrease the unexplained element of the pay gap. The ONS says that because of the need for further analysis,  the unexplained element of the gender pay gap should not be interpreted as a measure of discriminatory behaviour, but they do go as far as to admit that it may play a part. Question: if a woman with children earns less than a man with children, to what should we ascribe the difference in earnings?  
When looking at age groups, the ONS analysis found that the gap for full-time workers remains small at younger ages. However, from 40 onwards the gender pay gap widens, reaching its peak between ages 50 to 59 for full-time workers.
Whilst 9.1 per cent of the difference can be explained by the difference in working patterns, men are more likely to work full-time, and full-time employees on average earn more. In other words, if women had the same returns to these characteristics as men and with all other factors held constant, women would still earn less on average than men because fewer women work in the highest-paying occupations and in full-time jobs.
Modelling the factors that influence pay, the results showed that while both men’s and women’s pay grow for most of their lives, overall, women’s pay grows less than men’s and also stops growing earlier than men’s pay.

You can find the analysis here

10 January 2018

A spike in equal pay claims

Not surprisingly, the most recent statistics on claims filed with the Employment Tribunal show an increase in the period immediately after the removal of tribunal fees. Over 9000 of these were equal pay claims.

After the introduction of tribunal fees in July 2013 the number of equal pay claims received by the tribunal service dropped by 85 per cent. This was mainly because, until in July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that employment tribunal fees were indirectly discriminatory and thus unlawful, it cost up to £1,200 to take an equal pay claim to a tribunal hearing, enough to deter most people from taking a claim – which is of course, exactly what fees were intended to do.  It seems that while the government is willing to give people employment rights, it doesn’t actually want them to exercise those rights.  

Some commentators are attributing the spike in equal pay claims to the BBC. I don’t think so.  The fee regime was ill thought out and obviously discriminatory. It was expected to be found wanting, and lawyers will have been quietly preparing cases in the expectation of fees being removed.

Will the trend continue, or is the spike no more than a backlog?

You can find the latest release from the Ministry of Justice here.

9 January 2018

BBC cries ‘hush!’

Dozens of well-known BBC presenters publicly backed Gracie, only to fall foul of the corporation’s editorial guidelines. The BBC has pointed out that where a presenter or reporter has publicly expressed a view on a particular issue, they would no longer be perceived as an impartial voice, therefore it is right they do not conduct interviews on that issue.

All well and good - I can see where they're coming from - but it does feel that on this issue the BBC keeps putting its foot in its mouth. Muzzling people who speak out could give rise to further claims, but this time for victimisation. 

Equal pay or gender pay gap?

Very sensible comments  from Dean Royles,  director of human resources and organisational development at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust on the People Management Blog.  

Carrie Gracie's Letter to the BBC

Sadly, many women will be familiar with the situation experienced by Carrie Gracie. The comments from some interviewees are making me writhe; one such was 'Employers need to be free to incentivise employees.' Well, the BBC has certainly succeeded in doing just that!
I reproduce Gracie's letter in full. It deserves to be read.

"Dear BBC Audience,

My name is Carrie Gracie and I have been a BBC journalist for three decades. With great regret, I have left my post as China Editor to speak out publicly on a crisis of trust at the BBC.
The BBC belongs to you, the licence fee payer. I believe you have a right to know that it is breaking equality law and resisting pressure for a fair and transparent pay structure.
In thirty years at the BBC, I have never sought to make myself the story and never publicly criticised the organisation I love. I am not asking for more money. I believe I am very well paid already – especially as someone working for a publicly funded organisation. I simply want the BBC to abide by the law and value men and women equally.
On pay, the BBC is not living up to its stated values of trust, honesty and accountability. Salary disclosures the BBC was forced to make six months ago revealed not only unacceptably high pay for top presenters and managers but also an indefensible pay gap between men and women doing equal work. These revelations damaged the trust of BBC staff. For the first time, women saw hard evidence of what they’d long suspected, that they are not being valued equally.
Many have since sought pay equality through internal negotiation but managers still deny there is a problem. This bunker mentality is likely to end in a disastrous legal defeat for the BBC and an exodus of female talent at every level.
Mine is just one story of inequality among many, but I hope it will help you understand why I feel obliged to speak out.
I am a China specialist, fluent in Mandarin and with nearly three decades of reporting the story. Four years ago, the BBC urged me to take the newly created post of China Editor.
I knew the job would demand sacrifices and resilience. I would have to work 5000 miles from my teenage children, and in a heavily censored one-party state I would face surveillance, police harassment and official intimidation.
I accepted the challenges while stressing to my bosses that I must be paid equally with my male peers. Like many other BBC women, I had long suspected that I was routinely paid less, and at this point in my career, I was determined not to let it happen again. Believing that I had secured pay parity with men in equivalent roles, I set off for Beijing.
In the past four years, the BBC has had four international editors - two men and two women. The Equality Act 2010 states that men and women doing equal work must receive equal pay. But last July I learned that in the previous financial year, the two men earned at least 50% more than the two women.
Despite the BBC’s public insistence that my appointment demonstrated its commitment to gender equality, and despite my own insistence that equality was a condition of taking up the post, my managers had yet again judged that women's work was worth much less than men's.
My bewilderment turned to dismay when I heard the BBC complain of being forced to make these pay disclosures. Without them, I and many other BBC women would never have learned the truth.
I told my bosses the only acceptable resolution would be for all the international editors to be paid the same amount. The right amount would be for them to decide, and I made clear I wasn't seeking a pay rise, just equal pay. Instead the BBC offered me a big pay rise which remained far short of equality. It said there were differences between roles which justified the pay gap, but it has refused to explain these differences. Since turning down an unequal pay rise, I have been subjected to a dismayingly incompetent and undermining grievance process which still has no outcome.
Enough is enough. The rise of China is one of the biggest stories of our time and one of the hardest to tell. I cannot do it justice while battling my bosses and a byzantine complaints process. Last week I left my role as China Editor and will now return to my former post in the TV newsroom where I expect to be paid equally.
For BBC women this is not just a matter of one year’s salary or two. Taking into account disadvantageous contracts and pension entitlements, it is a gulf that will last a lifetime. Many of the women affected are not highly paid ‘stars’ but hard-working producers on modest salaries. Often women from ethnic minorities suffer wider pay gaps than the rest.
This is not the gender pay gap that the BBC admits to. It is not men earning more because they do more of the jobs which pay better. It is men earning more in the same jobs or jobs of equal value. It is pay discrimination and it is illegal.
On learning the shocking scale of inequality last July, BBC women began to come together to tackle the culture of secrecy that helps perpetuate it. We shared our pay details and asked male colleagues to do the same.
Meanwhile the BBC conducted various reviews. The outgoing Director of News said last month, “We did a full equal pay audit which showed there is equal pay across the BBC.” But this was not a full audit. It excluded the women with the biggest pay gaps. The BBC has now begun a ‘talent review’ but the women affected have no confidence in it. Up to two hundred BBC women have made pay complaints only to be told repeatedly there is no pay discrimination at the BBC. Can we all be wrong? I no longer trust our management to give an honest answer.
In fact, the only BBC women who can be sure they do not suffer pay discrimination are senior managers whose salaries are published. For example, we have a new, female, Director of News who did not have to fight to earn the same as her male predecessor because his £340 000 salary was published and so was hers. Elsewhere, pay secrecy makes BBC women as vulnerable as they are in many other workplaces.

How to put things right?

The BBC must admit the problem, apologise and set in place an equal, fair and transparent pay structure. To avoid wasting your licence fee on an unwinnable court fight against female staff, the BBC should immediately agree to independent arbitration to settle individual cases.
Patience and good will are running out. In the six months since July’s revelations, the BBC has attempted a botched solution based on divide and rule. It has offered some women pay ‘revisions’ which do not guarantee equality, while locking down other women in a protracted complaints process.
We have felt trapped. Speaking out carries the risk of disciplinary measures or even dismissal; litigation can destroy careers and be financially ruinous. What's more the BBC often settles cases out of court and demands non-disclosure agreements, a habit unworthy of an organisation committed to truth, and one which does nothing to resolve the systemic problem.
None of this is an indictment of individual managers. I am grateful for their personal support and for their editorial integrity in the face of censorship pressure in China. But for far too long, a secretive and illegal BBC pay culture has inflicted dishonourable choices on those who enforce it. This must change.
Meanwhile we are by no means the only workplace with hidden pay discrimination and the pressure for transparency is only growing. I hope rival news organisations will not use this letter as a stick with which to beat the BBC, but instead reflect on their own equality issues.
It is painful to leave my China post abruptly and to say goodbye to the team in the BBC’s Beijing bureau. But most of them are brilliant young women. I don’t want their generation to have to fight this battle in the future because my generation failed to win it now.
To women of any age in any workplace who are confronting pay discrimination, I wish you the solidarity of a strong sisterhood and the support of male colleagues.
It is a century since women first won the right to vote in Britain. Let us honour that brave generation by making this the year we win equal pay.

5 January 2018

Iceland makes it illegal to pay men more than women

In a move likely to send ripples around the equality world, Iceland has made it illegal to pay men more than women.
Icelandic companies with more than 25 workers will have to obtain a certification from an accredited auditor that they are basing pay differences on legitimate factors such as education, skills and performance.

Big companies with more than 250 employees have until the end of the year to get the certification, while the smallest have until the end of 2021.

4 January 2018

How the Civil Service is tackling its gender pay gap

Seventeen departments have now published their gender pay gaps, and with the government having published a diversity and inclusion strategy showing what it intends to do to close the gender pay gap in all departments, there is already a benchmark against which to measure future progress.

A Brilliant Civil Service, Becoming the UK’s Most Inclusive Employer commits the government to ensuring its recruitment processes are fair and transparent,  but while the document also mentions ‘a mix of interventions’ to drive gender balance at all levels, the interventions are not specified.  Pay equality is not listed amongst the strategy’s objectives.

A quick way of finding departmental gender pay gap reports is to go to the recently introduced government transparency and accountability website. This includes all of the gender pay gap reports published so far. 

3 January 2018

How catering is tackling its gender pay gap

Hot on the heels of marketing comes catering.  

The Caterer has an article on the first tranche of hospitality companies to go public on their gender pay gaps. While most of the companies quoted cited occupational segregation as the reason for an hourly pay gap in the hospitality sector, catering recruitment specialist Addison says that there’s no clear reason for a gap in hourly rates, and that there is clearly an issue that needs addressing.  

What employers can do to tackle the gender pay gap

The Government Equalities Office, jointly with the CIPD, has issued a guide for employers on actions to take to close the gender pay gap. These include ensuring open recruitment, introducing flexible working at all levels, supporting staff with caring responsibilities, and checking that you are paying staff fairly. 

The guide also recommends that you:
  • Calculate and publish your gender pay gap information, as required by law
  • Analyse your data to learn where you can achieve the biggest improvement
  • Commit to an action plan
  • Monitor your progress

You can find the guide here