New research: Organisations' management of flexible working arrangements can contribute to gender pay gap

IES News

13 Sep 2017

How organisations manage staff returning to work from parental leave can contribute to the gender pay gap, according to new IES research.

Whilst women may be encouraged to take parental leave and be informed about all flexible working options upon their return, fathers may be treated differently. This can in turn reinforce gender stereotypes, hinder female career progression and impact negatively on equal pay.

The research report, published today by the Advisory, Conciliation & Arbitration Service (Acas) and authored by IES principal associate, Mary Mercer, offers a range of recommendations for organisations to improve their management of FWA and in turn act to reduce the gender pay gap.

The report combines the findings from a purposive evidence review and a series of case studies with organisations, offering guidance on best practice in managing FWA.

In the context of relatively low levels of take-up of shared parental leave, the report suggests that where organisations do not offer enhanced shared parental leave pay whilst offering an enhanced maternity package, a status quo gender bias could form. The report therefore recommends that organisations ensure equality around the taking of leave by, for example, matching pay for shared parental leave to enhanced maternity pay to encourage fathers to take leave.

Elsewhere, line managers’ ability to effectively manage people who work flexibly is also cited as an area that organisations could use to improve their management of FWA. Research suggests that managers are often poorly trained in how to make decisions around flexible working requests and, in turn, are unaware of how to manage a flexible team effectively.

Examples from case study organisations also suggest the benefits of developing specific schemes to support and encourage returners and ensure that those having a break can return and maintain a career track. Building a culture of rewarding outcomes over presenteeism can also help to improve take-up of FWA across the organisation.

It is also important that organisations realise the business benefits of FWA, highlighted in previous IES research and recent research from Acas and Manchester Business School. Understanding across the organisation is crucial to create agile and responsive workforces, as opposed to seeing FWA as a reactive response to caring responsibilities.

Flexible working for parents returning to work: Maintaining career development

Read the full report