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What is the Gender Pay Gap in the UK and How Does it Affect Construction?

In April 2018, companies in the UK were required to report their gender pay gap. The construction industry, especially, not appearing in a great light.

The report showed that almost eight in 10 companies and public sector bodies pay men more than women and in nine out of 17 sectors, men earn an average of 10 percent more. The construction industry ranks as one of the worst for pay inequality, with women paid an average of 36 percent less than men.

New government regulations required businesses with more than 250 employees to publish:

Their gender pay gap. Their gender bonus pay gap. Proportion of men and women receiving bonuses. Proportion of men and women in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.

These figures indicate disparity in employee earnings.

Pay Inequality in Construction

A Randstad survey analysed the gender pay inequality in construction and found that the average gender pay gap in the industry is 25 percent.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released similar figures in October 2017 and revealed that the median gender pay gap in construction was 14.9 percent. The fact that this figure is now an average of 25 percent indicates that the gender pay gap is an even more serious issue than expected.

An article published on Construction News analysed the significance of this issue and found that among the top 10 biggest contractors in the UK, Bouygues UK and Mace Ltd have the biggest pay gaps. Median gaps of 40.9 and 39.9 percent were reported, respectively, which is nearly 20 percent higher than the industry average.

As for bonuses, nine of the top 10 contractors reported a median bonus pay gap of 33 percent or higher. In fact, Balfour Beatty had a median difference of 65 percent, which is significantly higher than the industry average.

What Causes This Disparity in Pay?

The construction industry has long had a reputation of being “male dominated” and lacking female representation across all levels, from entry-level to senior. More than 5,500 people from the construction industry were surveyed in the Randstad study and just under half (49 percent) said they’d never worked with a female construction manager.

Further analysis suggests that women make up less than 10 percent of employees in the top pay quartiles. On average, the average proportions of women in the upper middle, lower middle and lower pay brackets are 11.6 percent, 16.2 percent and 26.1 percent, respectively.

These proportions may suggest why there is such a difference in pay and represent possibly the biggest concern for the construction industry. There are far fewer women in top senior positions in construction than men. Women tend to hold roles in admin and support roles.

Why the Gender Pay Gap Matters Unhappy, Unproductive Employees

This disparity in pay can lead to demotivated, disgruntled employees. If your female workforce think that they’re much less likely to gain a more senior role, higher pay or bonus than their male counterparts, they’ll be less motivated to work hard. They may not work to their full potential, which can lead to reduced productivity.

Risk to Reputation

Gender pay gaps can harm your business’ reputation. Consumers, investors and other businesses are becoming increasingly focused on ethical behaviours. If it’s revealed that your business has a significant difference in pay due to gender, it can affect your relationship with more than just your employees. It can affect your relationship with customers, suppliers, investors and stakeholders. This includes present and future.

Difficulty in Recruiting and Retaining Employees

When people are applying for a job, your position on equality and diversity is an extremely important factor they’d consider. If your business gains a reputation for its gender pay gap, you may find it difficult to recruit and retain employees.

How Can You Handle This?

The main issue surrounding gender pay inequality in the construction industry is that it has long been a “male dominated” workplace. It’s difficult to say precisely why this is the case, but what you need to do is to redesign policies and environments in order to eliminate any bias you may have about your recruitment process.

For instance, you can remove any gendered language from job advertisements and demographic information from applications. As well as a mixture of structured and unstructured interviews, consider using predictive tests or work sample tests as well. That way, you can test an applicant’s ability more objectively.

In addition, you should also offer more extensive career development within every job role to give everyone an equal opportunity in career progression.

Be aware that the publication of gender pay gap information may affect a variety of stakeholder-related decisions, from employees to consumers. It can particularly affect investment decisions which can obviously have a negative impact on your company’s financial state.

So, it’s important that you focus on how to clearly communicate how any gender pay gaps will be addressed. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as via press conferences, press releases or statements on social media.

How Else Can You Improve Your Workplace?

Gender pay gap is a serious issue that covers many industries. It has a particularly strong impact on construction, with the pay gap being the largest of all industries at an average of 25 percent. While eliminating disparities in the gender pay gap can improve your workplace in a variety of ways, it’s not the only thing you need to think about. Health and safety is another important factor to consider.

Summer brings its own share of hazards and you need to make sure your team is well protected against them. Download our free guide to working outdoors in summer and find out how to prepare your workers from seasonal hazards.