Fair play in the workplace

Do you think you would get away with paying your son less pocket money than
your daughter, or taking him to Disneyland but not her? Would they think it was
fair? So why do we tolerate such treatment in the workplace?

Employers need to think about fairness in connection with the way they reward
all employees, not just women compared with men. This approach will help improve
employee satisfaction and attitudes, giving them a reason to go the extra mile
and, ultimately, contributing to business performance.

Figures show 17,000 women took their employer to tribunal claiming sex
discrimination in 2004, which is hardly a striking indicator of legislative

Some progress has been made over the years – more women are in work and the
gender gap has halved since 1970 – but the gender gap remains stubbornly at 18%
for full-time and 40% for part-time work, with most of the narrowing occurring
in the 1970s. The fact is more needs to be done.

Equal pay audits can provide valuable information, helping organisations to
achieve central business targets and understand employees’ potential. CIPD urges
employers to carry out regular audits looking at variants other than gender,
such as age and race. This will help them spot circumstances where individuals
are paid unfairly, and for no justifiable reason.

But making pay audits compulsory is the wrong route to take, because it will
foster resentment and a compliance-based approach to the legislation, which will
prevent employers from identifying the underlying causes.

The latest CIPD reward management survey shows half of employers have
undertaken an equal pay review. If organisations are serious in their efforts to
become fair employers, they need to be smart and use the data carefully to
expose flawed employment policies and practices so these can be reviewed to make
sure the problems don’t occur again.

It is in the self-interest of employers to explore the underlying issues,
such as poor diversity training, weak performance management systems and career
and occupational barriers, in order to create a culture based on fairness which,
in turn, contributes to better business performance.

All employers can make a start by articulating the values, behaviours and
performance that they expect their employees to achieve in order to meet
business objectives.

The next step is to reward staff in a non-biased way, so equal pay gaps can
be a useful tool in identifying any problem areas preventing this from

Dianah Worman is diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute for
Personnel and Development

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