DfE perm sec Jonathan Slater: Employers should see gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity

Written by Jonathan Slater on 28 June 2017 in Opinion

The Education permanent secretary sheds light on how his department is trying to tackle the problem of women being paid less than men

This election saw a record number of women voted into the House of Commons, making it the most diverse parliament in British history. It is fantastic to see our democracy become increasingly representative of the people it serves. 

Our workplaces should be the same. That is why I’m so proud of the work that the Department for Education is doing to tackle its gender pay gap, a key step to cracking the glass ceiling and building a more modern workforce. 


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In April, we introduced mandatory gender pay gap reporting for all large employers. This is world-leading legislation that will make our workplaces fairer and help businesses across Great Britain be more productive. The best employers will see gender pay gap reporting as an opportunity. Those with the best stories to tell about developing all their employees, women and men, will be the most competitive and attract the best talent.
And that is exactly what the department is striving to do. We have analysed and published our gender pay gaps for a number of years. By being open about the challenges we face, we shine a light on where women are held back, and create the opportunity to put this right. Women represent 59% of the department’s workforce, and I’m pleased that – at 5.9% – our gender pay gap is lower than the national average. But the senior leadership team is committed to going further.
We are already seeing the benefits of attracting and developing our female talent: 55% of our senior civil servants in the department are women. Having such visible leadership from the top of the organisation can go a long way to changing our workplace cultures.
By ensuring all interviewers have undergone unconscious bias training and anonymising our recruitment processes we can continue to build the most diverse and effective teams. We are going to push ourselves hard to ensure that women are as likely as men to be promoted within the department, and that external hiring is equally unbiased. The Government Equalities Office has successfully used the new Applied web platform designed to use behavioural science to help organisations find the best candidates based on their talents.
We know that the UK gender pay gap opens up after women have children. As well as offering shared parental leave, job share and part time opportunities, we have refreshed our guidance to help line managers ensure those returning from maternity or adoption leave feel supported and welcomed. As an employer, we need to make full use of the skills of such experienced colleagues.
Almost every employer will have a gender pay gap this year. What matters is what we do with the information. By supporting women at work and embracing new initiatives, there is a real opportunity for the civil service to lead by example across the public and private sectors.

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Jonathan Slater
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Jonathan Slater is the permanent secretary for the Department for Education

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Mark Hammer (not verified)

Submitted on 28 June, 2017 - 15:43
One of the best assurances for keeping gender pay-gaps small, and getting smaller, is the presence of unions and job-classification systems. Conversely, one of the historical means for keeping gender-gaps wide is the absence of unions and the job-classification systems they oblige for purposes of parity. If there is no system for pigeon-holing a position as THIS category of job, compensated at THIS rate, then as employer I am free to give a woman and man doing the same work different job titles and different compensation packages, which neither will be able to look up about the other. Within a system that has standards for classifying jobs and publicly-available pay scales for those categories, the possibilities for abuse are reduced. Not eliminated, mind you, but significantly reduced.

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