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    Addressing the gender employee benefits gap

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    Gender pay gap reporting is highlighting grave inequality in the workplace – but it's not just salaries that should be under the spotlight.

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    The deadline has now passed for companies with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gap data – the difference between how much male and female employees are paid respectively.

    Of the 10,109 companies and public bodies that have reported their data, men are paid more in 7,795 of them – or 77.8% – based on median hourly pay1.

    Although the gap varies from company to company, there is no sector where women are, on average, paid more than men.

    The reporting compares how much men are paid compared with women. But it doesn’t report on whether men and women are paid equally for the same role – leaving clear questions about workplace structures and cultures that block the path of women to senior, more high paying roles.

    Financial responsibility

    Despite the disparity in pay, women are shouldering a heavier financial burden than ever.

    Take the example of working mothers. The employment rate of mothers in England has increased to 73.7% between 1996 and 2017 (a rise of 11.8 percentage points over the past two decades)2.

    Additionally, 75.2% of inactive or unemployed mothers (1.1 million) have stated they would definitely or probably return to work in the future3.

    With more mothers in work, holding an increasing financial responsibility, highlighting the importance of employee benefits in the workplace may be central to making sure they become more protected.

    Mothers and employee benefits

    According to a survey of 5,077 adults in the UK, 60% of women with a dependent child have no life insurance, while only 13% have a critical illness policy. 31% of mothers said their household would be placed at financial risk if they lost their income unexpectedly4.

    Another report suggested women value employee benefits more highly than men, yet receive fewer of them5. This could be linked to the higher number of women working in part-time roles6, but could also be a sign of benefits policies not being explained well or flexible enough to cover all demographics adequately.

    Although the problem of gender pay disparity in the working world is a broad one, adjusting your employee benefits offering may be one way to help close that gap.

    For example, something that can be lost in the detail is the fact that many employee benefits policies include family members, or can be extended to do so.

    For example, children of employees are automatically covered in Unum’s Critical Illness policy – at no additional cost.

    Or it could be that your company is not communicating the benefits available effectively – and therefore failing to furnish employees with all the facts about what their policy offers.

    Click here for all sorts of advice on how best to communicate employee benefits.

    The disparity in salaries between men and women is now firmly out in the open and employers are rightly under scrutiny. Eradicating a long history of financial inequality will take time, but ensuring their benefits package caters for the entire workforce is a first positive step employers can take to bridge the gender gap.

    Sources:

    1 The Guardian. (2018). Gender pay gap: what we learned and how to fix it

    2,3 ONS. (2017). Families and the labour market, England: 2017

    4 Scottish Widows. (2018). Mothers failing to protect themselves financially

    5 Grass Roots. (2016). The future of employee benefits, p9

    6 ONS. (2018). Understanding the gender pay gap in the UK, Figure 2