Pay gaps and pay equality between the sexes have been much in the news recently. And rightly so.
The Civil Service has been leading the way for a number of years by publishing gender pay gap information as part of the annual Civil Service statistics.
As of today, 17 ministerial departments with more than 250 employees have also complied with the Government’s new reporting requirements, introduced this year, for large employers in all sectors. This is world-leading legislation that will make workplaces across the UK fairer. The new requirements will provide unprecedented transparency, generate wider debate and encourage employers to take the action required to close the gap.
I am pleased to say that the overall Civil Service gender pay gap has narrowed over the past year, from 13.6% in 2016 to 12.7% in 2017. The gender pay gap for the public sector as a whole is now 19.4%, compared to 23.7% in the private sector.
That said, our gender pay gap is still a matter of concern. In particular, we need to focus on improving the gender balance at all grades and across all departments, agencies, functions and professions. For example, though we have made steady improvements in the last few years in the representation of women in the Senior Civil Service (SCS) and at Grades 6 and 7 (the proportion of SCS who are women is now 42.4%, an increase of 9.8 percentage points since 2008; and, in 2016/17, 49% of new entrants to the SCS were women), representation at these grades is still not what it should be.
As I’ve said before, building a diverse and inclusive workforce that reflects the people we serve is one of my top priorities as Head of the Civil Service. Our collective aim is to make the Civil Service the UK’s most inclusive employer by 2020.
In October, we launched our new Diversity and Inclusion Strategy in October, outlining plans for achieving this aim and setting out how we will continue to improve the gender balance of the Civil Service at all levels, including in the most senior posts. I want to create opportunity for all, in a truly meritocratic way, and reward all civil servants fairly, regardless of gender, ethnicity or any other personal characteristic.
We have been working towards this in a number of ways.
We have published guidance on diverse panels to limit the impact of unconscious bias in selection; and we have virtually eliminated all-male selection panels for posts at SCS level. We are also ensuring recruiters for the Civil Service focus harder on attraction and fair selection, to deliver a diverse candidate shortlist. The Civil Service must become more visible as a career of choice, and we are working to promote experience in a challenging post in the Civil Service as an essential part of a senior leader’s career portfolio.
With an eye on the future, we have taken action to improve the diversity of our talent programmes to make us more representative at the most senior grades. In response to the independent 2016 Bridge Group Report, which addressed diversity in the Fast Stream, we are working to ensure that this flagship accelerated development programme quickly becomes more representative of the wider population. Likewise, we continue to work hard to deliver representative intakes to our prestigious Future Leaders and Senior Leaders schemes. These have a huge part to play in creating a more diverse and representative Senior Civil Service.
We are conscious of the impact particular male-dominated job roles in professions such as digital, data and technology could have on the pay gap. Currently, only 36% of civil servants working in the digital, data and technology profession are women. We know that the UK’s pay gap is partly driven by the subject and career choices young people make at school, but also by social, economic and cultural factors. The Government Equalities Office is looking at what can be done about this at a national level. Functional leaders within the Civil Service are also looking at methods that can be used to attract candidates from a range of backgrounds.
A final and key part of attracting diverse candidates to the Civil Service is through promoting an inclusive culture where everyone can be themselves, perform at their best and be fairly rewarded as part of ‘A Brilliant Civil Service’
One way we are doing this is by developing a family-friendly employment offer, through the continued availability of shared parental leave and a range of other parental leave support. At present, nearly a quarter of all civil servants work part- time. I have seen that in areas such as the government legal profession, many civil servants have been attracted by the steps we are taking to ensure that there is a place for everyone in the Civil Service. Steps such as improving availability of flexible, home working, and job-share opportunities, including at the most senior levels.
Recently, the Government launched new ‘returner’ programmes across the public sector. These will offer paid work placements and training to those returning after time out for caring. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, women who take time out of work earn around 2% less for every year spent out of paid work.
As today’s gender pay publications show, there is much more to do. The Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy has set out further clear actions to achieve representative diversity. We must all embrace the strategy and think about what we can do to make the Civil Service a truly great place to work for everyone.
Follow Sir Jeremy on Twitter: @HeadUKCivServ.