Alan McCormack | Senior Associate

Greater Action Required to Tackle Scotland’s Pay Gaps

A major shake-up of working culture in Scotland is required to help reduce persistent pay gaps.

This is the conclusion of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has recently published what it describes as a comprehensive strategy for tackling gender, ethnicity and disability related pay gaps.

Call for Action

This strategy calls on Government, businesses and society in general to take action in six key areas to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people:

  • unlocking the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships,
  • improving work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live by investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise,
  • making jobs at all levels available on a flexible basis,
  • encouraging men and women to share childcare responsibilities by making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare,
  • increasing diversity at all levels and in all sectors by encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay and introducing a new national target for senior and executive management positions, and
  • reporting on progress towards reducing pay gaps by extending reporting to ethnicity and disability and collecting annual statistics.

Pay Gap Figures

Figures from the EHRC show that pay gaps in Scotland remain unacceptably high:

  • women are paid on average 15% less than men in Scotland,
  • ethnic minorities are paid 5.7% less than white people, and
  • disabled people are paid 13.6% less than non-disabled people.

The research also reveals some other interesting figures:

  • half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani men earn less than the living wage compared to less than a fifth of white men,
  • men who experience depression have a 30% pay gap compared to their non-disabled peers and men with epilepsy have a 40% pay gap, and
  • the gender pay gap in Greater Glasgow is 18p an hour lower than in the rest of Scotland.

Different Sectors Affected

Recent media reports have highlighted the scale of the gender pay gap problem in different sectors in Scotland.

According to a recent report in BuzzFeed, the pay gap in one of Scotland’s biggest employers, NHS Scotland, is actually worsening, rising from 18.85% in 2015 to 19.9% today.

The Scotsman reports on research conducted by Creative Scotland, which found evidence of a ‘significant pay gap’ in the arts and creative sector, and also revealed that 44% of women believed their gender had been a hindrance to career progression within this sector compared to only 12% of men.

“The pay gaps issue sits right at the heart of our society and is a symbol of what needs to be done to achieve equality for all,” explained Dr Lesley Sawers, Scotland Commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. “Subject choices and stereotypes in education can send children on set paths which often reflect the limited expectations of women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.”

“These stereotypes are then reinforced in recruitment, pay and progression practices leading to a ‘that’s just the way it is’ attitude,” she said. “It isn’t – all it reflects is how we value people and people’s work.”

“For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary carers and having tough conversations about the bias that is rife in our society,” she concluded.

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Alan McCormack

Alan McCormack

Employment Law Team

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