‘Flexible working needs to be the default in higher paid jobs’

A Fawcett Society report for Equal Pay Day calls for default flexibility in high-paid jobs if the gender pay gap is to close more quickly and says that, at current rates of progress, women over 40 will not see pay parity until they retire.

Illustration of gender pay gap with money and seesaw - FTSE100 directors


Making flexible work the default in high-quality, high-paid jobs is essential if the gender pay gap is to close in less than 28 years, according to a report from the Fawcett Society for Equal Pay Day.

The report shows that women are accessing flexible work associated with lower-paid, lower-quality work such as part-time, insecure work and zero-hours contracts, in order to balance their caring responsibilities, and that this contributes to the UK’s gender pay gap.

It says that:

  • 40% of women who aren’t currently working said that access to flexible work would mean they could take on more paid work (32% of men who aren’t working and 37% of people overall said the same)
  • Women were significantly more likely to report working part-time (27%) compared to men (14%)
  • Men were more likely to report having access to more desirable forms of flexible work—for example, working term time only (outside of an education setting) (21%), working as part of a job share (18%), working a number of set hours flexibly across the year (15%) or working to commissioned outcomes (10%).
  • 77% of women agreed that they would be more likely to apply for a job that advertises flexible working options.

Harriet Harman, Chair of the Fawcett Society, said: “The gender pay gap is closing far too slowly. At the current rate of change, women over 40 will suffer the pay gap until they retire. This is unfair and unjust, and it hurts everyone. A thriving economy relies on the full participation of women, and we are currently locking women out of work they are qualified for and capable of doing.

“For too long, women have put up with less fair and less equal working arrangements in exchange for flexibility. We need urgent action to ensure women are allowed to work to their full level of skills and experience. making flexibility the norm will make it easier for women to get the flexibility they need, and also normalise men taking on their fair share of caring responsibilities. We cannot afford to wait.”

The report is being released for Equal Pay Day, the day when, because of the gender pay gap, women overall in the UK stop being paid compared to men. The Fawcett Society says this means, on average, working women take home £574 less than men each month (£6,888 p/a). They estimate that at the current rate of change, the gender pay gap won’t close until 2051, with the gap for women over 40 not closing until they reach retirement.




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