Equality Commission calls for a shake-up of working culture to reduce pay gaps in Scotland

Published: 15 Aug 2017

All jobs should be advertised as available for flexible working, and greater effort placed on ending bias in recruitment, promotion and reward in a shake-up of culture and working practices to reduce pay gaps, the Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland said today.

The call comes as the Commission releases a comprehensive strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps is released.

Fair opportunities for all: a strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain makes six recommendations outlining the action needed by government, in society and in our businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

 “The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of what needs to be done to achieve equality for all. Subject choices and stereotypes in education can send children on set paths which often reflect the limited expectations of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

"These stereotypes are then reinforced in recruitment, pay and progression practices leading to a 'that’s just the way it is' attitude. It isn’t – all it reflects is how we value people and peoples work.

"For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary carers and having tough conversations about the bias that is rife in our society.”

Pay gaps today remain stark:

  • women are paid on average 15% less than men in Scotland
  • ethnic minorities are paid 5.7% less than white people
  • disabled people are paid 13.6% less than non-disabled people

The strategy is supported by the most detailed and comprehensive analysis to date of pay gap data and the drivers behind them. It highlights the complex causes of pay gaps, often missed out of debates that focus only on the headline figures.

The research reports some startling figures and surprising differences within groups, including:

  • half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men earn less than the living wage compared to less than a fifth of white men. Men who experience depression have a 30% pay gap compared to their non-disabled peers and men with epilepsy have a 40% pay gap
  • the gender pay gap in Greater Glasgow is 18p an hour lower than in the rest of Scotland

Dr Sawers continued:

"The Scottish Parliament's recent inquiry into equal pay in Scotland, 'No small change', echoes many of the findings we have released today and we share the Committee's concerns about the low value placed on care staff. We also fully endorse the Committee's recommendation that public bodies use procurement to require bidders to submit their pay gap as part of the bidding process in the same way the Government has used it to require them to pay the living wage”.

"We have been talking about equal pay for years but the pace of change is glacial. Pay practices need to catch up with modern Scottish life – women, ethnic minorities and disabled people simply shouldn’t have to accept second class pay. What message does this send to young Scots – that no matter how hard you try, your gender, race, or disability defines your worth?

"With pay gap reporting becoming mandatory for large employers next year, many companies know they can manipulate their figures by simply promoting a few women into the top echelons. I think the public will see through that.” 

Notes to editors

The full recommendations of today’s report are that government, their agencies and employers should:

  • unlock the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships
  • improve work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live by investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise
  • encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities by making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare
  • increase diversity at all levels and in all sectors by encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay and introducing a new national target for senior and executive management positions
  • report on progress towards reducing pay gaps by extending reporting to ethnicity and disability and collecting annual statistics

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006. It operates as an independent body to protect and promote equality and human rights in Great Britain. It aims to encourage equality and diversity, eliminate unlawful discrimination, and promote and protect human rights. The Commission enforces equality legislation on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. It encourages compliance with the Human Rights Act 1998 and is accredited by the UN as an ‘A status’ National Human Rights Institution.

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