Only half of businesses in the UK have chosen to report their gender pay gap this year, according to a new study.
In 2017, the British government made it mandatory for any organisation which employs at least 250 people to reveal its gender pay gap. The aim is to speed up the closing of the gap by improving transparency across the board.
The UK's gender pay gap has been steadily shrinking year-on-year, but at a disappointedly slow place. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the gap across both full-time and part-time employees fell from 17.8% in 2018 to 17.3% last year.
However, with coronavirus already having a massive impact on the way we work, the government announced in March – just two weeks ahead of deadline – that it would be suspending compulsory reporting this year.
With reporting now only optional, Business in the Community found that just 5,081 organisations had reported their 2019-2020 figures by the 4th April deadline.
Though around 500 organisations then reported their pay gaps shortly after the deadline, this still represents a near-50% drop from 2019, when 10,828 organisations reported their pay gap.
This widespread shirking of responsibility is especially disappointing because businesses have access to the relevant data an entire year in advance – and the requirement was only suspended with the deadline a fortnight away.
And the subsequent reduction in pay gap data we'll have access to is yet another way in which coronavirus is hitting women harder – and the finances of young women most dramatically of all.
"Pay gap reporting is a vital tool in understanding and tackling gender inequality at work," Charlotte Woodworth of Business in the Community said in response to the findings.
"If we don’t have a clear picture of women’s status at work entering the crisis, we won’t be able to take the right steps going forward," she added. "It is hugely disappointing to see so many opted out when the legal requirement was lifted – and a worrying sign of attitudes towards gender equality during the crisis."
Woodworth also warned that "the choices companies make now will play a vital role in deciding whether we lock in the progress made in recent years, or see women’s standing at work unravel," adding ominously: "This crisis could see women’s equality pushed back a generation.”