Gender pay gap affects trust and recruitment in the public sector, survey reveals

The gender pay gap is a key reputational issue for the public sector, with implications for trust and future recruitment, an exclusive PRWeek survey has revealed.

Organisations which report and then address their gender pay gap early could see benefits for trust and recruitment
Organisations which report and then address their gender pay gap early could see benefits for trust and recruitment

Nearly half of those surveyed by Atomik Research said they would be less likely to trust a public sector organisation if it had a significant gender pay gap, while 55 per cent said they would be less likely to want to work there.


Also see: Local authorities lead public sector organisations for early gender pay gap reporting


Meanwhile, 68 per cent of adults think public sector organisations have a responsibility to lead on the issue of gender pay gap reporting and nearly two thirds said it would enhance the reputation of the organisation if it reported early.

Government regulations that require employers with more than 250 staff to begin reporting their gender pay gap came into force in April.

The regulations affect 9,000 employers in the private, public and voluntary sectors – some 15 million workers across the UK – who will be required to publish their figures by April 2018.

So far, more than 200 employers, including around 20 public sector organisations, have reported ahead of the deadline, of which seven are local authorities.

Researchers spoke to 2,000 adults across the UK, representing all age demographics and further split across private, public and third sector workers.

Should the public sector lead on reporting?

The survey asked if the public sector had a responsibility to lead on gender pay gap reporting, ahead of the private sector, with 68 per cent saying that it did, while 15 per cent said that it did not.

This figure rose to 75 per cent among those who work for a public sector organisation, compared with 70 per cent who work in the third sector and 67 per cent who work in the private sector.

Reputational benefits of early reporting

Researchers asked the public if it enhanced the reputation of public sector organisations to report their gender pay gap ahead of the April 2018 deadline, with 64 per cent telling the survey they thought it did, while 25 per cent said it made no difference.

However, if a public sector organisation did have a significant gender pay gap, only 37 per cent said it still enhanced its reputation to report early, with the same percentage saying that it did not.

The reputational benefit of early reporting was highest among Londoners, with 72 per cent saying it would positively affect their perception of a public sector body.

Londoners were also the most sanguine about public sector bodies that reported early with a significant pay gap, with 55 per cent saying it would still positively affect their view of an organisation.

The gender pay gap and the trust defecit

Trust is a key commodity for public sector organisations, without which they would be unable to operate as effectively.

The survey asked people if they would be less likely to trust a public sector organisation if it had a significant gender pay gap.

For 46 per cent of all respondents, their trust would be reduced while 22 per cent said it would not and 32 per cent said they didn’t know.

However, the negative impact on trust rose to 61 per cent among third sector workers and 54 per cent among public sector workers, the survey found, while in the regions the impact on trust was most pronounced among Londoners, at 57 per cent.

Younger adults, aged from 25-34, were almost twice as likely to say they would not trust a public sector body with a significant gender pay as their counterparts aged 65 and over.

Gender pay gap and future recruitment

Hiring and retention of staff is a challenge across all sectors and, with younger people moving up through the UK’s workforce expecting greater transparency on pay than their older counterparts, the reputational effects of the gender pay gap on recruitment was made clear by the survey results.

Asked if they would be less likely to want to work for a public sector organisation with a significant gender pay gap, 55 per cent of all respondents answered yes, while 17 per cent said no and 29 per cent said it made no difference.

But, by age group and gender, this figure rose to its highest, at 64 per cent, among people aged 25-34, while 67 per cent of women said the same.

By employment background, the impact on potential recruitment was highest among third sector employees, of whom 77 per cent said it would affect whether they wanted to work for an organisation, while 60 per cent of public sector said the same, as well as half of those who work in the private sector.

With the nation’s trust at stake, public sector communicators cannot afford to waste time in not only acknowledging their imbalance but also providing solutions as to how this will be put to an end.

Alice Goody, project manager at Atomik Research

Commenting of the survey results, Alice Goody, project manager at Atomik Research, told PRWeek: "As the gender pay gap reporting deadline looms, companies may be deliberating whether to bide their time or report their findings ahead of the pack. With recognition being the first step to rectifying the gender pay imbalance, the public clearly favours those who are seen to be addressing the issue early, and for public sector organisations this means leading ahead of the private sector."

Goody said there was a significant reward for those public sector organisations that were seen to be tackling the issue of the gender pay gap.

She added: "Even when there is a significant pay gap found, as many adults would see public sector organisations reporting early in a positive light as those who would not. With the nation’s trust at stake, public sector communicators cannot afford to waste time in not only acknowledging their imbalance, but also providing solutions as to how this will be put to an end."


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