Tackling gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps: new research

IES News

15 Aug 2017

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has today published research by IES that examines the effectiveness of interventions led by UK government and employers to tackle gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps in the UK. EHRC releases the report alongside its strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

The IES study entailed a review of the existing evidence and a series of workshop discussions with employers and experts on the academic research and practical steps that employers can take to close their newly reported pay gaps.

It found that whilst much research exists on the problems of achieving gender pay parity, which are wide-ranging and complex, there is much less evidence on what actually contributes to closing/removing those gaps. The review also found very little evidence of specific interventions, or evaluations of such interventions, in relation to ethnicity and disability pay gaps compared to gender.

IES looked globally at what seems to be influential, and found that a number of studies highlight individual factors that have a positive impact. For example, openness and disclosure of information: the more transparent the pay system then the lesser the gaps. Hence the importance of the new gender pay reporting requirements, as well as wider employer transparency as to their pay arrangements - one of the reasons why the overall gender pay gap is lower in the public compared to the private sector. Other factors included training and development, for example, studying STEM subjects at A-level boosts pay for girls by age 25, and flexible working opportunities, which the EHRC is promoting.

However, to make significant progress, evidence shows that multiple initiatives must be pursued over a sustained time period and with co-operation between all key stakeholders, including employers, government, employees and unions, and experts/academics.

In addition to presenting evidence on interventions and, where available, their effectiveness, the report provides an overview of the legislative framework and a description of employers’ progress in tackling pay gaps.

Across the three types of pay gap, the study identified four common factors:

  • Voluntary employer initiatives have generally had limited impact.
  • There is some evidence of success of employers’ efforts to nurture talent and support career development, although the impact of these efforts on pay gaps is unknown.
  • All three disadvantaged groups are still held back by discrimination in employment and recruitment.
  • Progress across all groups is hampered, particularly in the private sector, by a widespread lack of information, auditing and analysis.

Despite these common features, the researchers found that the causes of each type of pay gap varied and that bespoke action for each group is likely to be required: there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Tackling gender, disability and ethnicity pay gaps

Read the full report and summary