Millions of furloughed workers will not be included in 2020′s gender pay gap reports, raising concerns that figures could be artificially inflated.
Companies with more than 250 employees, both public and private, have to publish data on wage inequality in their organisation on an annual basis.
But HuffPost UK today reveals that around 3.2m furloughed men and women will be wiped off the record, taking into account the fact that 57% of companies with more than 250 employees made use of furlough.
Statistics on the gender pay gap are calculated by analysing one “snapshot” day – March 31 for the public sector and April 5 for private companies. That means every worker who was furloughed at the start of lockdown, even if they returned after just a couple of weeks, will not be included.
When it comes to whether more women or men were furloughed, the data provides only a very partial picture. According to HMRC, by the end of July, 34% of men and 29% of women who were eligible for furlough took it.
The picture on the gap between mothers and fathers is more defined. According to information published Resolution Foundation in May, mothers were 14% more likely to be on furlough than fathers.
There are fears that this disparity could lead to equal pay figures being artificially inflated, with the gender pay gap appearing narrower as more women are left out of the statistics.
Just days ago a report from the Fawcett Society and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London (KCL) found the UK lags behind other countries, which have “much more robust systems”.
The requirement in England only for companies with more than 250 employers to report is five times the average of 50 employees for the nine other countries analysed by the researchers, suggesting pay disparities in smaller English companies are going undetected.
Laura Jones, research associate at KCL’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said: “Without a requirement to produce a plan to close gender pay gaps, there is a risk that employers simply won’t take the action that is necessary.
“Lowering the minimum employee threshold for gender pay gap reporting would also enable us to get a more complete picture of how women are managing through the current economic disruption, and other countries show that it can be done in a way that isn’t an extra burden for smaller employers.”
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) confirmed that furloughed employees would not be included in this year’s statistics, but declined to provide a formal comment.