5th April 2022

This blog provides insight and guidance for employers looking to create productive and thriving workplaces and close their gender pay gap.


For every pound that a man earns, a woman earns on average just 90p. Whilst progress is being made to tackle the gender pay gap, it’s not happening fast enough.  

Fawcett’s campaigning led to the introduction of gender pay gap reporting, introduced by UK Government in 2017, to ensure that big employers took responsibility for tackling the gender pay gap in their organisation. The mandatory reporting scheme makes public the pay inequalities that are ultimately responsible for the persistent gender pay gap in the UK and has encouraged thousands of employers to take serious action to improve gender inequality in the workplace.  

Today, whilst almost 10,000 organisations have reported their workplace gender pay gap, we are calling for the system to go much further than data sharing. We want the Government to require every employer, along with reporting their pay gaps, to also submit a mandatory action plan on how they will improve gender equality in their workplace. 

At a time when the labour market is particularly tight, taking action to close the gender pay gap makes an organisation more attractive to work for, particularly for women. Polling by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows that nearly two thirds of women take the gender pay gap into account when considering applying to a new job, and that 58% of women would be less likely to recommend their present employer if they had a pay gap.  

So, if you’re an employer looking to create productive, thriving, and equal workplaces, here’s five steps you can take to:   

End salary history  

Salary history questions ask job applicants to provide information on their pay in previous roles. It is a recruitment practice that bakes in gender, race and disability inequality – rather than offering a salary based on someone’s skills and experience, it is based on perceived worth and negotiating skills. Women, and in particular women of colour and disabled women, are more likely to be on a lower salary – so they are already disadvantaged by this practice.  

In the 21 US states which have banned this practice, we have seen positive results with pay gaps closing for new starters. Our recent research shows that 61% of women who have been asked about salary history say it damages their confidence to negotiate for better pay. So, whilst it won’t end the gender pay on its own, there is clear evidence to show that ending the recruitment practice works to tackle pay inequality and as an employer, it is a simple, low-cost step to close your gender pay gap.  

You can sign the End Salary History pledge here and access our free employer toolkit, to support you in ending this harmful recruitment practice here: https://www.endsalaryhistory.co.uk/  

Flexible work, by default  

By offering flexible working – such flexitime, home working or compressed hours – in your workplace, you can support all your employees to balance the pressures of work and home life. However, it is women who would see the biggest benefit of flexible working by default, as they are often required to take on the bulk of unpaid care work, looking after children or relatives, alongside work. 

Flexible working increases productivity, staff well-being and retention and research shows that 9 out of 10 people want to work flexibly – yet only 1 in 10 jobs are advertised as flexible. That means that when a mother, carer or disabled person who needs flexibility seeks to move elsewhere and progress, or to find a new job after time out of work, they face a major blockage. That’s why we are campaigning for Government to require employers to advertise jobs with the possible flexible work options – but in the meantime, employers can take inspiration from Zurich, where a trial of advertising flexibility led to a massive third more women being hired for senior positions. 

Clear and transparent routes to progression  

Women are more likely to be in part-time, low-paid jobs in comparison to men and this is a huge contributor to the gender pay gap. Yet, what many women often face at work is barriers that stop them progressing into senior positions and in turn, earning a higher salary.  

The route to progression is challenging for women, and  particularly if you are a woman of colour: our research shows that 31% of women of colour have been unfairly passed over or denied a promotion at work.  

By fostering the talents, experiences and skills of women in your workplace, and offering fair, clear and transparent routes to progression, you support women to reach their full potential and tackle your gender pay gap.  

Encourage men to take-up of parental leave  

Creating a positive workplace culture that encourages men to take parental leave can have a significant impact on gender equality and pay equity in your workplace. Many working women juggle the demands of becoming a parent with the pressure of taking time away from work to start a family. When they return to work, this is often on a part-time basis and balanced alongside childcare. We are only going to significantly shift the expectation that this is ‘women’s work' if we make it equally men’s work. Numerous pieces of research show that this is what men want – to spend time with their new babies – but the system doesn’t do enough to enable it, and employers need to do more to encourage itCreating a supportive environment that actively promotes shared parental leave policies to fathers can help to reduce the gender pay gap alongside supporting equality in the home and in childcare.  

Tackle workplace sexual harassment  

Sexual harassment in the workplace is endemic. As our recent research shows, at least 40% of women have experienced workplace sexual harassment and it has severe consequences for women and for workplace culture and productivity.  

In July last year, the UK Government committed to legalisation for a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace – this recognises that sexual harassment is not about a few individuals but about workplace practice and culture that allows sexual harassment to happen and violate the dignity of women.  

If you’re an employer that wants to change your workplace culture to prevent sexual harassment, access our Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Workplace toolkit here: https://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/tackling-sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace-employer-toolkit 

The toolkit is a free resource that is adaptable and aims to support employers to change workplace culture, put in place a sexual harassment policy, train managers and make it safe and easy for employees to report and respond appropriately.