The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has said in a new strategy document that all jobs should be offered as flexible to tackle gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.
Current figures calculate the gender pay gap at 18.1 per cent, the ethnic minority pay gap at 5.7 per cent and the disability pay gap at 13.6 per cent. Indeed, an analysis published last week by the TUC found that black workers whose highest qualifications are A-levels earn 10 per cent less than their white peers – missing out on an average £1.20 per hour.

The EHRC publication - “Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain” - makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government and businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

In particular, the Commission recommends that all jobs should be offered as flexible in order to remove the barriers faced by women and disabled people. It also suggests that fathers should be given extra “use it or lose it” paternity leave to encourage more men to ask for flexible working, reducing the “motherhood penalty’” that many women face after having children and increasing the opportunities for them to progress.

As well as pressing for flexible working to be encouraged at all levels, the strategy urges governments and employers to:

  • address differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships
  • Invest in sector-specific training and regional enterprise
  • encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilitiesby making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare 
  • Encourage employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay
  • Extend reporting regulations to include ethnicity and disability, as well as gender

Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors, commented: ‘This is another worthy set of recommendations to add to the very large pile of good words and intentions from many sources on these important topics. The problem is, as ever, that bad employers who didn’t care before, won’t care now either. The fact we are 50 years on from the Equal Pay Act 1970 and still have such a large gender pay gap and widespread sex discrimination problem, amply shows that voluntary regulation and individual enforcement is simply inadequate to the task of real and rapid change.

‘There is no real reason to believe that the reverse is true for ethnicity and disability pay gaps (especially with the post-Brexit gloom around the corner). Until central government imposes penalties with real bite the problem will persist for so long as employers gain a risk-free short-term advantage, despite the deep long-term harm which that does our society.’

Click to read the EHRC strategy.

Click to read the TUC analysis.