flexible working for all: the solution to bridging the diversity gap?

All jobs should be advertised for flexible working, says a new strategy for increasing diversity in the workplace

Guest blogger Gabrielle Lane

More of us could be offered flexible working than ever before, if recommendations from the Equality and Human Rights Commission come into play.

Fair opportunities for all: A strategy to reduce pay gaps in Britain is published today. It calls on the government and businesses to improve equality in earnings for women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

It suggests that offering flexible working arrangements for all roles would remove the barriers facing some individuals at work and improve professional opportunities for all. At present, women and disabled people are more likely to have to accept lower-paid, part-time work to fit in with their needs. This leads to their underrepresentation in the workplace at all levels.

As well as pressing for flexible working to increase diversity at work, the Equality and Human Right’s Commission’s report makes five other recommendations for business leaders:

  • Unlock the earning potential of education by addressing differences in subject and career choices, educational attainment and access to apprenticeships
  • Improve work opportunities for everyone, no matter who they are or where they live by investing in sector-specific training and regional enterprise
  • Encourage men and women to share childcare responsibilities by making paternity leave a more effective incentive and improving access to childcare
  • Increase diversity at all levels and in all sectors by encouraging employers to tackle bias in recruitment, promotion and pay and introducing a new national target for senior and executive management positions
  • Report on progress towards reducing pay gaps by extending reporting to ethnicity and disability and collecting annual statistics


The report has been welcomed by CEO of the CMI, Ann Francke, who says: “Diversity is good for business and the economy, driving better performance and productivity. There is much to play for; closing the gender and BAME pay gaps alone would add £174bn to the UK economy by 2025. According to CMI research, pay gaps are more pronounced at management levels and grow wider the higher up the ranks you go. Transparency and targets are essential to addressing this pressing business issue.”

Previous research from the Chartered Management Institute and XpertHR has shown that male managers are currently 40% more likely to be promoted into higher roles than female managers.

Caroline Waters, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission believes that gender bias is a product of a ‘motherhood’ penalty that women face in their careers after having children. “For this to change, we need to overhaul our culture and make flexible working the norm; looking beyond women as the primary caregivers…” she said upon publication of the report. The research puts the gender pay gap at 18.1%.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission also estimates the disability pay gap at 13.6% and the ethnic minority pay gap at 5.7%.

The data, which highlights that Bangladeshi and Pakistani immigrants are most likely to be paid below the national living wage, aims to encourage businesses to acknowledge and address the inequality.

This sentiment was echoed in the Delivering Diversity report from the CMI and British Academy of Management (BAM), which called on organisations to measure BAME diversity at every level of the management pipeline. At present, only 21% of the FTSE100 companies reveal their current diversity levels through published targets and data.

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