G G Granville – Fetch Your Cloth

Posted on Nov 24, 2023. by NTI

Earlier this week, Wednesday (22 November) not only saw Jeremy Hunt stand up and deliver an Autumn Statement containing every measure it was expected to contain (thanks to every measure being leaked beforehand), but Equal Pay Day (“EPD”).

EPD is a concept introduced by the Fawcett Society, a membership charity which campaigns for women’s rights.  This year’s report found that on average working women take home £574 a month less than men – or £6,888 a year.  EPD marks the date when women overall in the UK stop being paid compared with men.

The report this EPD is titled “Making flexible working the default” and blames a lack of flexible working in well-paid, high-quality jobs for the difference in pay between the genders.  Furthermore, the Fawcett Society (named after Millicent Fawcett, a peaceful campaigner for women’s suffrage) found that women were forced to put up with unfair and less equal working arrangements in exchange for the flexibility required to balance caring responsibilities.

“Flexibility supports women’s career progression, grows the talent pool for employers and breaks the link between women and less-desirable flexible work,” said Jemima Olchawski, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society. “Flexibility in high-quality, high-paid jobs must be normalised for all employees.”

The Fawcett Society estimate at the current rate of progress, which they call “glacial”, the pay gap will not be closed until 2050 at the earliest.  The survey behind the report revealed that 40% of unemployed women said access to flexible work would enable them to take on paid work with 30% of unemployed men saying the same.  Of those in work, almost double the number of women (27% vs 14% confirmed they were working part-time.  Over three quarters of women confirmed they would be more likely to apply for a job if the advert included flexible working options.

While there is a legal right to request flexible working once employed, Alice Arkwright, policy adviser at the TUC, would like employers to have a duty to put flexible working options in job adverts.  Currently less than a third of job adverts offer flexible working compared with over 80% of applicants preferring it.

“It’s to everyone’s benefit.  It’s going to cause employers difficulties if someone they’ve just employed has their request rejected and they then either have to drop their hours or leave the job.” Arkwright said.

Somehow, even though his shop was in a sitcom entitled Open All Hours, I can’t see Ronnie Barker’s Arkwright being as accommodating as Fawcett and the TUC are calling for.

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