Flexible working should be offered across all jobs, says equality watchdog

Rebecca Smith
Flexible working should be rolled out across all levels according to the EHRC
Flexible working should be rolled out across all levels according to the EHRC

A serious shake-up of working culture is needed, including advertising all jobs as available for flexible working, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said today.

The equality watchdog has set out six recommendations Britain needs to implement in society and in businesses, to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

Read more: UK among the lowest in Europe for "decently paid" maternity leave

The Commission says that offering all jobs as flexible will remove barriers faced by women and disabled people, who are more likely to have to negotiate flexible working or accept part-time jobs that are often low-paid.

It also says the introduction of "use it or lose it" paternity leave paid at a generous level, will encourage more men to request flexible working, reducing the so-called motherhood penalty that many women face after having children.

Caroline Waters, EHRC's deputy chair, said:

We need new ideas to bring down pay gaps – it’s not just about more women at the top. Yes, female representation is important but tackling pay gaps is far more complicated than that. Whilst there has been some progress, it has been painfully slow.

Subject choices and stereotypes in education send children of all genders, abilities, and racial backgrounds on set paths. These stereotypes are then reinforced throughout the workplace in recruitment, pay and progression.

For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers and having tough conversations about the biases that are rife in our workforce and society.

Other measures the Commission encourages are investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise, as well as encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment and promotion by setting a new national target for senior and executive management positions. The EHRC also wants reporting on progress towards reducing pay gaps extended to ethnicity and disability.

The EHRC said that 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, but says the statistics alone are just part of the story.

It comes as new research from recruitment firm Michael Page found that eight in 10 millennials, defined here as those aged 18 to 27, don't work from home, fearing criticism from their bosses for doing so. Its survey of 1,000 workers found that a fifth had been refused flexible working options by an employer.

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