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Gender pay gap and flexible working

There has been extensive publicity recently about the gap between pay for women and men, triggered by an IFS report showing that, on average, women earn 18% less per hour than men. However, this gap between men's and women's hourly pay rates has been closing in recent decades - it was 23% in 2003 and 28% in 1993.

But after women return to work following the birth of a first child, that wage difference per hour widens steadily. "This apparent wage penalty for taking time out of paid work is greater for more highly educated women, at 4% for each year out of paid work," the IFS found. One reason for this is that women are more likely to return to part-time working after childbirth and miss out on career opportunities. A CMI report showed that men are 40% more likely than women to be promoted into management roles and the gender pay gap is partly caused by men being present in greater numbers than women the higher up the organisation you go.

A Women and Equalities Select Committee report earlier this year proposed making all jobs flexible by default from the outset and creating a national scheme to support women to get back into work. The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, has called on employers to advertise jobs at all levels as flexible, part-time or a job share unless there is a strong business case not to. The more senior people there are flexibly working the narrower the pay gap will be.

To help senior employees adopt part-time working Wiswork has developed a toolkit. This was developed with support from the Women and Equalities Unit and focuses on encouraging the provision and take up of more part-time opportunities for senior women. It is designed to act as a catalyst for productive part-time working arrangements for senior staff and should help employers, their staff and others with a professional interest such as facilitators, trainers and organisation development specialists.