Closing the gender pay gap requires a change in thinking on flexible working

In an EY report on the gender pay gap, many companies identified flexible working as a key area for attention. Forward-looking organisations realise a flexible offer can give them a competitive edge

By Iain Harrison

25 Jul 2018

Many firms identified flexible working as a key area for attention in their gender pay gap reporting (you can read more on this by clicking here). The debate hitting the headlines has highlighted the current lack of senior roles that are suited, in terms of flexibility, to women. According to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, mothers earn an average of 30% less than men of similar backgrounds, a figure largely attributed to their lack of representation in the more senior, and higher-paying, roles. However, demand for flexible working is emerging from women and men at all career stages and the current climate triggered by pay reporting may signal a movement towards flexibility being a key battle ground for talent.

Currently, 54% of the UK workforce population work ‘flexibly’: clearly, a movement towards working remotely and in ways more tailored to the individual, is gaining traction. Despite this number, 86% of those working full-time want more flexibility in how much, when and where they work.

However, those more senior and higher paying roles often don’t give options for working flexibly: only 9.8% of ‘good jobs’ offer flexible working, meaning that generally more men, and less women, apply to them.

Around 30% of people quit their jobs in search of a better work-life balance. Those jobs which offer more flexible working also tend to offer this balance. Long hours, in-office working, and time rather than results-based work is becoming less popular, and organisations clearly need to up their game when it comes to offering more options in the way their employees work.

92% of millennials want to work flexibly, a huge number in terms of prospective employees. If companies start to make flexible working a priority, not only would this attract more talent in general, but also hopefully an increase in female talent progressing through the organisation.

So with a commitment from the government to address the “burning injustice” of the pay gap, investors starting to look at gender diversity and what we know about the mismatch in supply and demand from talent at all stages of their careers, forward thinking organisations will increasingly see their flex offer as a source of competitive advantage for talent. This could tip the balance on the current barriers and stigma attached to flexible working and result in employees demanding more flexibility or voting with their feet. Employees may well become inflexible about flexible working, the question is will you be ahead?

If this topic raises challenging questions for you then please get in touch with Iain Harrison via, contribute to the debate here or view the June webcast on this topic.

Iain Harrison is senior manager, EY People Advisory Services. 

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