A new guide aims to help employers bridge the gender pay gap without risking discriminating against men.
An HR organisation has published a guide which looks at when positive action is permitted in the context of sex discrimination.
XpertHR’s Using Positive Action to Help Close the Gender Pay Gap guide explains the rules around taking positive action to close the gender pay gap – including the difference between positive action and positive discrimination – and how to develop a positive action plan.
The Equality Act 2010 allows general positive action if an employer reasonably thinks that women suffer a disadvantage connected to their sex; women have needs that are different from the needs of men; or participation by women in an activity is disproportionately low.
XpertHR says that where at least one of these conditions is met, the employer can take action that is a proportionate means of: enabling or encouraging women to overcome or minimise that disadvantage; meeting the different needs of women; or enabling or encouraging women to participate in that activity.
It outlines some steps employers can take to help women enter or progress into male-dominated roles, including targeted recruitment advertising in publications that are likely to be accessed by women; asking external recruitment specialists or internal managers to provide gender diverse candidate shortlists; providing training, mentoring or shadowing opportunities for women; holding women-only recruitment open days; and setting up formal women’s networking programmes for sharing career advice.
XpertHr says different rules apply to more favourable treatment taken in connection with recruitment or promotion. The Equality Act 2010 permits this where an employer reasonably thinks that women suffer a disadvantage connected to their sex, or participation by women in an activity is disproportionately low.
XpertHR states: “This allows the employer to treat a woman more favourably than a man in connection with a recruitment or promotion decision because of their sex. However, stringent conditions must be met – the woman must be ‘as qualified’ to be recruited or promoted as the man; the employer must not have a policy of treating women more favourably in connection with recruitment or promotion; and taking the action must be a proportionate means of achieving the relevant aim.”
In essence, it says, employers can take sex into account in a recruitment or promotion decision, but only as a way of deciding between two candidates who are of equal merit.
XpertHR head of product content strategy Jo Stubbs says: “There are lots of factors behind the gender pay gap – including the low numbers of women choosing to study STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), which typically lead to well-paid jobs.
“But there are definitely ways that employers can help to remove any imbalance between the genders in their more senior and better paid roles. However, they need to understand what they can and can’t do. The provisions around recruitment and promotion are particularly tricky – if a well-intentioned employer appoints a female candidate over a better qualified male candidate, this will amount to direct sex discrimination.”