Unison has condemned the latest workforce statistics published by Universities UK that show that women make up 54% of the total higher education workforce, but despite this 63% of those paid below £17678 are women. This equates to over 20,000 female support staff working at UK universities. The same report highlights that whilst men make up 46% of the total university workforce, men make up over 70% of those staff paid over £57,032.
UNISON’s General Secretary Dave Prentis said “Women working at UK universities make up almost two thirds of staff on the lowest pay points, it is a disgrace that so many are in the lowest paid jobs. Universities must do more to identify initiatives that support women in the workplace and help them get promoted.
“The perception that working flexible hours is getting a ‘perk’ is not right. Women are just as employable and worthy of a promotion as everyone else. Greater use of flexible working leads to greater productivity and a more motivated workforce.”
In July a joint report ‘Gender Pay in HE’ carried out by the employers and trade unions identified persistent challenges in the sector around equal pay.
The report highlights that there is a “misperception of the value of flexible workers” at some universities that meant that “some individuals…could be seen as less promotable because they work flexibly”. That harmful view is more likely to affect women than men says the report.
UNISON has called for all universities to undertake equal pay audits every two years. Davena Rankin, UNISON NEC member for Scotland and member of the working group said:
“Given that in Scotland there is a statutory requirement for all universities to conduct an equal pay audit, we would want to see this element of best practice extended across all universities so that we can start to highlight the real issues that are causing the gender pay gap and barriers for women in the workplace and start to address them at each institution.
One example of best practice is more innovation around working flexibly and supporting staff to get a good work life balance. Letting people work hours that help them juggle childcare and professional commitments would seem like an unqualified good for university staff.
New arrangements that allow couples to share parental leave, which came into effect in April, may start to “redistribute the caring responsibilities between men and women” and “shift the accompanying perceptions of the value to organisations of those who work flexibly”, the report suggests.