How flexible working can help tackle inequality

Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Equalities, on how flexible working options can help more women in better-quality employment:

Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Equalities
Throughout this year, we will be marking the centenary of women’s suffrage and highlighting the programmes and initiatives helping to combat inequality in our communities.

Across the UK, women still face a struggle for gender equality, particularly in regard to pay and senior positions in businesses. Nationally, for every £1 a man earns women earn just 81p, and out of all of the FTSE 100 companies only seven are led by women.

The picture is better for women living in Hackney where the pay gap is much narrower – on average women and men across the borough earn roughly the same. However the pay gap can often fluctuate and we cannot afford to be complacent.

At Hackney Council, the gender pay gap is turned on its head with women earning on average 8% more than men. We will be reporting on our gender pay gap at our full Council meeting next month.

According to the 2016 Women and Equalities Committee report: “A large part of the gender pay gap is down to women’s concentration in part-time work which doesn’t make use of their skill.” One of the organisations helping women into better-quality employment through flexible working, and in turn helping to narrow the gender pay gap, is the Timewise Foundation.

We were accredited as a Timewise council in October 2015 and have been reaccredited each year since, acknowledging our ongoing progress in increasing flexible employment opportunities throughout the borough.

Since becoming a Timewise council, we ensure that every job we recruit to is advertised as being open to flexibility unless there’s a good business reason why it can’t be – and we’re encouraging other local employers to do the same.

Offering flexible employment options such as part time, flexible start and finish times, compressed hours and remote working means we have access to a wider talent pool of candidates who may not have otherwise been able to apply for work with us.

Our research into the needs of women and girls in Hackney shows that women are less likely to be in work than men. In June 2017, just 68% of Hackney’s working-aged women were in work, compared with 78% of men, while education levels were similar with the same proportion of men and women educated to degree level. And according to the 2011 Census, women are more likely to be lone parents with nearly 90% of lone parent households headed by a woman.

Unlocking more quality roles to flexibility will help more talented people put their skills to use rather than become trapped below their skill level in low-paid part-time or flexible jobs due to the lack of flexibility in better quality jobs.

We’re encouraging Hackney businesses to offer flexible working options where they can, particularly in those areas known to have skills shortages such as information technology and engineering.

Not only will this have a positive impact on earnings, career progression and job mobility for women with family responsibilities, but it will also help older workers, carers and people with disabilities. In turn, helping us tackle more than just gender pay discrepancies but inequality through child poverty, unemployment and family worklessness in the borough.

Over the next year, we’ll be continuing to work closely with the Timewise Foundation to make even more progress on unlocking flexible opportunities. We will also continue to monitor our own gender pay gap, working to further understand intersectional differences such as ethnicity among our employees.
Cllr Carole Williams, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Equalities

More information on the Timewise Foundation is available at www.timewise.co.uk.