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Is gender the only reason for the pay gap?

Sexuality also has an impact on what’s in our pay packet, according to research.

Simpson Millar

Mon, 24 Oct 2016 12:58:08 GMT | Updated today

It's no secret that gender plays a major role in the labour market. 


Women in full-time employment currently earn around 13.9% less than male colleagues in the same roles as them over the course of their careers - this is known as the gender pay gap


Research on the gender pay gap has generally focused on how gender affects what employees earn and overlooked how other factors - such as sexuality - influence the pay gap. It's only recently that more studies have begun analysing and comparing rates of pay between straight and LGBT workers, unearthing some interesting trends. Studies have shown that straight men tend to earn more than gay men, and - interestingly - that lesbians earn more than straight women.


Are lesbian employees really less affected by the gender pay gap?


Even though it might seem like lesbian employees are at an advantage in the workplace compared to straight women, the unfortunate reality is that all women are still at a disadvantage in comparison to their male colleagues. On top of this, gender isn't the only culprit responsible for the difference in pay between men and women.


A number of factors contribute to and sustain the gender pay gap, including:


Discrimination - even though it's unlawful for employers to discriminate against their employees based on gender or sexuality, women still tend to earn less than male colleagues doing the same roles as them.


A divided labour market - women are more likely to be in low paid and low skilled jobs compared to men.


Complicated pay schemes - staff should be able to identify how each element of pay contributes to their earnings in any pay period. The practice of awarding discretionary bonuses, i.e. those awarded other than by reference to objective criteria, have significantly contributed to the gender pay gap


Unequal caring responsibilities - women usually play a greater role in caring for their children as well as elderly or sick relatives. Employers need to review their current flexible working offering so as to avoid leaking female talent.


Attracting new talent - when employers are trying to persuade an individual from another competitor to join their business, they might have to negotiate and even increase the salary offered to convince the individual to join their business, thereby widening the pay gap.


Pay secrecy - preventing employees from discussing salary with colleagues is now unlawful but the research shows that women remain reluctant to raise wage concerns with management. Employers could do more to make salary discussions more comfortable, i.e. during regular performance reviews.


Men tend to negotiate harder for their salaries - statistics have proven that men are more likely to change their job role and/or leave their employer, and negotiate harder than women for higher salaries, which also perpetuates the pay gap.


The odds are stacked against women at work, but with the government implementing reporting provisions as part of the Equality Act 2010, this is a step in the right direction.


From April 2018 employers with at least 250 employees will have to publish their gender pay gap and in doing so, address the causes of their gender pay gap. Regardless of your gender or sexuality, your pay should reflect your expertise and the value that you can bring to a business.


If you would like to know more about how the new gender pay gap reporting requirements are likely to affect your workplace, call Simpson Millar Employment Solicitors on 0800 260 5005 or visit to request a call-back.


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