Our expert

  • Melissa Blissett

    Melissa Blissett

    Senior Consultant – Pay Gaps and Financial Wellbeing

  • We take a closer look at why men are not getting what they need in the workplace, and why women’s pay is not reflecting their productivity.


    One-third of all employees admitted searching for a new job, in our recent UK employee market survey. With turnover costs quoted as £30,000 per employee by HR press, this is a costly issue.

    Key findings

    As we approach the 5 October deadline for the 2020/21 gender pay gap reporting, what do employers need to know about the gender divide in their workplace? In this blog, we dissect our UK employee market survey of more than 2,000 employees,* on a gender disaggregated basis, and give you three key findings and actions: 

    More men (62%) than women identified themselves as having caring responsibilities, and 22% need more workplace flexibility. 

    There is evidence to show that women are more productive and committed at work, but they are financially worse off.

    The gender pay gap message isn’t getting through – 30% are unaware of their employer’s action plan – despite this being an influencing employment factor for all genders.

    Men aren’t getting what they need in the workplace 

    A surprising finding from our research was that more men than women declared caring responsibilities - precisely 62% of men versus 55% of women. Many men want this role, with 22% in our survey demanding more flexibility in the workplace. 

    Since the pandemic, I have listened to male colleagues tell me they can achieve just as much through a video call and embrace the time to then build dens in the garden with their children, rather than being on a long train journey home from London, only arriving at bedtime. 

    Surely, their children have benefitted hugely from this support and no-one wants this experience lost. Least of all women, who have typically been shouldering the burden of childcare and the impact on their careers as a result. 

    An important thing to consider here is that care comes in many forms: I’ve also seen male clients valiantly battling high pressure jobs while looking after their frail mothers. 

    So has flexible working been overfocused on women? Whilst women have benefitted from the opportunities this has offered for a more balanced life, they may also have suffered the career consequences. Is it time to balance up? Reducing the pay gap – so men’s financial contribution to family income is not so disproportionate – will help make this easier to achieve. Not offering men flexibility, now they have experienced it, may see employers lose talent. 

    Action point 1

    Create a flexible working culture

    Men often won’t raise flexible working due to concerns over their career. Employers need to create a safe environment to hear real views and take a proactive approach to facilitate flexible working.

    Sometimes this only needs to be for a short period, such as to cover ill health of a relative or school holidays. Can your policies accommodate this?

    Are women being paid for their productivity?

    Our research showed that:

    • More than 45% of women rate themselves as productive for more than 70% of their day, compared to only 39% of men. Additionally, 5% more men than women, say they are only productive for less than 40% of their day. 
    • Women also demonstrate a high degree of personal commitment, with 25% finding it hard to switch off versus 18.5% of men.

    So if women are being more productive, why is there a pay gap? Are women not being paid their true worth? Are men delivering value for money?

    Of course, it is more complicated than that. Theories for the gender pay gap include “horizontal segregation”, whereby men and women are employed in the same industry but adopt different job roles – with those dominated by women typically being less well paid. On the other hand, “vertical segregation”, involves women working in the same industry, but with men being clustered in the top roles. 

    So, if women are being more productive but being paid less, is this simply because they in a less valuable job role, or is there an equal pay issue? There are certainly some awkward questions to be answered – particularly if employers take a broader consideration of whether they are getting value for money for their salary cost, across the workforce. 

    For women, this has a significant impact on their lives. Our research uncovered, that despite financial prudence, with 30% of women reducing general expenditure since the pandemic, compared to 23% of men, and 5% more women clearing debt, the indicators below show that women are in a worse financial position:

    • Only 17% of women have been able to increase pension contributions since the pandemic, compared to 23% of men. 
    • Saving for a house deposit has increased for men since the pandemic and decreased for women overall. 
    • More than 11% of men cite buying a car in their list of top three financial priorities, which is an increase of nearly 4% since the pandemic started. By contrast, only 6% of women echo this, which is a drop of more than 2%. 

    These statistics indicate that there are more men who have gained financially during the pandemic, than women. 

    Action point 2

    Review your productivity measures

    How do you measure productivity? How do you measure non-productive work? Do these measures fairly assess performance?

    Do you have processes in place to ensure that “non-productive but essential” or lower value work is divided evenly?

    How strong is the link between productivity and your remuneration package?

    Communications around closing the pay gap are failing

    Less than one fifth of all employees say are aware that their employer has an action plan to deal with a gender pay gap. 30% of both men and women say their employer doesn’t have a plan, and an additional 36% of men and 40% of women don’t know if they do. 

    It is encouraging to see from our survey results that over 55% of men would be influenced by an organisation’s reported gender pay gap when choosing a new job. Unsurprisingly, women report stronger figures, with more than 60% saying it would influence their decision. 

    The overwhelming take away is that, whilst this is an important workplace issue, communication is not getting through to employees - even when actions are being taken. 

    Action point 3

    Build a credible, data-led narrative

    Before communicating, conduct deeper analysis and segmentation, beyond your regulatory reporting figures, so that you can identify why you have a gender pay gap and which cohorts are most impacted.

    Avoid generic assertions, and instead use data insights to provide an evidence-based narrative, and forecast pay gap reductions against specific actions. 

    Addressing issues, including more flexibility for men and fair pay for women, will create a more committed and sustainable workforce, help retain top talent and cut rehiring costs. 
      
    If you need help with gender pay gap reporting or require additional insights and creative solutions for engaging with the workforce around this topical issue, please contact Melissa Blissett, Senior Consultant – Pay Gap Analytics, using the contact details below.

    * Barnett Waddingham conducted a survey of 2,001 employees in the UK between 29 April and 4 May 2021, asking them about the future of work. All respondents were over 18, and sole traders were excluded.

    More about our gender pay gap services

    Pay gap services with Barnett Waddingham goes beyond mandatory reporting, helping employers gain deeper insight and develop clear actions. Find out more.

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