The gender pay gap : are equal pay audits an effective solution?
Equal Pay Audits are the latest tool in the campaign for gender equality at work. I use two pay audits, in a bank and an insurance company, to demonstrate how they can be used and abused, and in the process I explore the reasons for the massive gender pay gap of forty three per cent in the finance sector of the United Kingdom. The conduct of a pay audit allows an employer to claim conformity with government approved procedures, but I ask how reliable those procedures are, and how the process can be improved. The introduction of 'nev/ payment systems such as performance related pay has allowed employers to claim that pay and promotion are fair because they are determined by 'objective' criteria. The validity of such claims is tested, and other elements of the pay process that contribute to unequal pay sought out. The potential for 'new' payment systems to be transparent is found to be offset by provision for management discretion, but the major contributor to the gap is found to be the development of a two tier workforce following recent restructuring of the industry. This effectively reproduces the gendered divisions that existed prior to the implementation of Equal Opportunities legislation. The women who occupy most of the lower tier are mainly employed in call centres and customer service departments, where they have better pay and conditions than they could expect for alternative jobs in the same locality, sufficient flexibility to accommodate domestic commitments, but a flat career structure with little opportunity for promotion. The few men who join this tier do so as a stepping stone to the traditional departments where promotion provides access to some of the highest salaries in the UK.