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How to Prioritize Equal Pay During COVID-19

COVID-19 is hitting women workers disproportionately hard. Not only do women hold 70% of healthcare jobs globally, they are also more likely to hold jobs in hard-hit industries like retail, childcare, and hospitality, while being less likely to work in highly paid sectors like technology or science. Women also make up the majority of part-time workers.

Indeed, a policy brief by the UN Secretary General notes that nearly 60% of women around the world work in the informal economy, and as businesses close, millions of women’s jobs have disappeared. At the same time as they are losing paid employment, women’s unpaid care work has increased as a result of school closures and the needs of older relatives.

Research shows that women who leave the workforce due to care-giving responsibilities and then return to work will receive an offer that is 7% less, on average, than what a candidate who is currently employed would receive for the same position.

Why make equal pay a priority during COVID19?

Even in the midst of a pandemic, companies should never take their focus away from solving pay equity gaps. We recently spoke to a group of HR professionals at financial services firms, and we asked what their priorities were for 2020. Nearly 50% of them responded that, despite the new challenges of this pandemic, their immediate priority is pay equity.

Watch Dani Donovan of beqom discuss the impact of COVID-19 on pay equity and how to address it:


Aside from the ethical considerations around basic fairness and human dignity, legal requirements regarding non-discrimination in pay make pay equity important for reducing risk and avoiding lawsuits. With the compensation decisions that may come as a result of the pandemic’s effect on the economy, it’s incumbent on businesses to ensure that cuts or pay freezes are made without bias or unfair weight on a particular group.

Pay fairness and transparency help create a culture of trust, engendering loyalty and commitment from employees. Companies that provide equal pay for equal work are more likely to attract the best talent and experience lower staff turnover and reduced absenteeism. 

Fairness begets a good reputation, which has direct market value, appealing to customers and benefiting the commercial brand, as well as aiding recruiting. And, transparency, good reputation, valuable human capital, and low risk are all appealing to investors.

While pay equity is indeed a matter of social responsibility, it makes solid business sense as well.

What does it take to actually implement pay equity?

The most effective first step in solving pay inequity has proven to be transparency. In companies where pay is transparent, the research shows that the gender pay gap essentially disappears.

As beqom co-founder Tanya Jansen pointed out in a recent article in SHRM, “As a society, we must work to better define equity pay gaps to achieve both total pay equality across employees in similar positions and across employees of varying levels,"

Transparency means not only comparing salaries of men vs. women, but to compare peer groups and employees with similar attributes, such as tenure, skill sets, department seniority, performance history, and location. 

Once pay gaps are seen and understood, then begins the work of deciding how best to address them. But that work will pay off. By investing in pay equity analysis and pay transparency, companies can begin to close their gender pay gaps, and realize the benefits.

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