Gender pay gap: Lack of flexible work options holding back women says study

Jasper Jolly
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Childcare Workers Walk Off The Job To Protest Low Pay On International Women's Day
The political salience of the gender pay gap has risen around the world (Source: Getty)

A lack of flexible working options is hindering women and preventing the closure of the gender pay gap, analysis to be published today will show.

Opportunities for women in higher-paying jobs are “constrained” by the lack of part-time or flexible options for senior roles because women are more likely to “have to combine work with ongoing caring commitments”, according to research by accountancy firm PwC.

Laura Hinton, executive board member and head of people at PwC, said action must focus on bringing more women into jobs with the promise of higher pay, as well as “providing greater flexibility so that part-time working isn’t the default option” for women.

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The PwC study will show that London has made the slowest progress in closing the gender pay gap of all the UK’s regions, with only a three percentage point narrowing since the millennium.

The capital’s pay gap actually increased last year because of a rise in the gender pay gap in low-paying sectors in the region, while the financial and insurance sectors also have a larger gender pay gap than many other industries.

Meanwhile, the gap in Northern Ireland has fallen from from 22 per cent to six per cent in the same time to reach the lowest in the country thanks to a high proportion of women working in public administration, a sector with relatively high pay and a relatively low pay gap.

PwC’s analysis of the factors behind the gender pay gap in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries shows higher spending on family benefits tends to reduce the deficit in women’s pay by encouraging higher labour force participation.

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However, longer paid maternity leave appears to widen the gap because women spend longer not working, leading the report’s authors to advocate a stronger focus on shared parental leave.

Iceland, Sweden and Norway comprise the top three countries in the OECD for women in work, according to an index created by PwC, while the UK fell back one place because its improvement was slower than other countries.

The current gender pay gap reporting requirement – which must be carried out by all UK firms with more than 250 employees by April – will not result in the gap closing, Hinton added.

“Merely reporting numbers without concrete action won’t change anything,” she said.

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