Equal pay day is here again – will it ever become a thing of the past?

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Today marks the last day of the working year for women throughout the UK – or so it should.

From now until the end of 2016, working women are now, on average, providing their services for free – highlighting the 9.4% gap between average pay of full-time male and female employees.

And according to accountancy firm Deloitte, there’s approximately another 53 years of the gender pay gap left to run. Despite moves to try and eradicate the gap, it still appears to be the case that women are suffering from lower pay and less opportunities to progress in their career. The 2015 AAT Salary Survey put the pay gap among its members working full-time at 18%, while only this weekend the chairman of Glaxo Smith Kline Philip Hampton again called for women to occupy at least a third of board positions across all companies in the FTSE350.

Last month, AAT ran a breakfast roundtable with several leading organisations calling for gender equality in the workplace. Participants all agreed that the main aspects holding women back are traditional cultural elements to the workplace that need to be reversed.

The main recommendation to tackle this focused on increasing flexible working for both men and women, thus taking the onus off mothers to take the main responsibility for childcare. This tallies well with AAT’s own recent research suggesting that over half of mothers feel having children has significantly impacted on their careers, compared to less than a quarter of fathers. Men and women experience the working world differently after becoming parents, and greater equality in terms of taking time off to look after children – as laid down by terms of employment – can help change this.

Other recommendations from the roundtable event included judging employees on their output rather than the time spent at desks, giving women greater opportunities to build networks, and boosting paternity leave to introduce true shared parental leave. The full recommendations are available in our white paper.

But there’s more that can be done at an earlier stage. During the summer, nearly three quarters of students awaiting their A-Level results told us that they didn’t have a full understanding of the professional and technical education routes that exist to get them into white-collar professions. Improving careers advice across the country, so that young people receive just as much information, advice and guidance about apprenticeships and other routes to employment as they do around going to University, would also help many more women fulfil their potential.

In addition, once they enter the workplace, the provision of training can be improved to help them thrive. Almost a third of employees told us they have never received work-based training in their roles, meaning many remain in lower positions with little opportunity to progress.

Collectively, there’s still plenty to be done to ensure that men and women have true equal opportunities in the workplace. Rather than giving into the status quo where men will always assume general superiority on both position and pay, every company across every industry should carefully consider their work culture and ethos, and what can be done to make Equal Pay Day a thing of the past.

Olivia Hill is AAT's Chief HR Officer.

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