The British Hospitality Association (BHA) estimates that around 60 per cent of the hospitality and tourism workforce are women, but there are concerns that the number of employees working part-time could skew data for the industry.
According to data from the Office for National Statistics 53 per cent of hospitality businesses make use of zero-hours contracts – with women the most likely group to be employed on a non-permanent basis.
Therefore a failure to clarify the difference between part-time and permanent salaries could see hospitality named as having one of the worst gender pay gaps of all industries.
“The new government consultation does not specify a preferred metric used to determine the gender pay gap and since our industry has a substantial number of part time workers this could be important,” BHA deputy chief executive Martin Couchman told BigHospitality.
He added that the BHA would be participating in a government consultation in to how salary data will be presented, following discussions with its members.
Rise in legal action
Jawaid Rehman, partner, Employment and Pensions, Weightmans LLP, warned that the legislation could result in employers facing a ‘significant increase’ in equal pay claims.
According to research from recruitment site reed.co.uk, women working in hospitality were paid an average 18 per cent less than their male counterparts in 2014. While the average man took home £18,497 annually, the average female salary was £15,665.
“The hospitality industry is particularly susceptible to equal pay claims because there is likely to be gender imbalances in certain roles which may be of equal value, such as waiting staff and kitchen staff, and also there may be local salary variations where employers have multi sites,” said Rehman.
“It is important therefore to be proactive and carry out an equal pay audit prior to pay reporting becoming mandatory. The audit may highlight discrepancies, but there could be valid reasons for differences, which can be evidenced and documented. If not, measures can be put in place to reduce any gaps highlighted. Doing nothing is not an option," he said.
Women in the boardroom
Sharon Glancy, executive director at People 1st, and founder of the Women 1st campaign, hailed the government’s plans as a ‘positive step’ for the industry.
“Addressing the pay gap is one of the simplest measures that firms can implement to encourage more women into work and aid their progression through the ranks, yet a significant pay gap exists between men and women in hospitality,” she said.
According to a BHA report from 2014, 89 per cent of food and service management firms have at least one woman on their board, with many exceeding the FTSE 100 target of women holding at least 25 per cent of board positions.
However Glancy told BigHospitality that currently unreleased research undertaken by People 1st highlighted that wage inequality worsened ‘the closer you get to the boardroom’.
“Eliminating the gender pay gap ‘within a generation’, as the Prime Minister has pledged, is no mean feat given the weight of the current problem,” she said.
“We have a mountain to climb, yet in the new world where greater transparency reigns, this should also be viewed as an opportunity for root and branch change.
“Through the Women 1st campaign, People 1st will be doing all it can to support this vibrant and exciting industry to affect such change, helping to transform the boardrooms of the future.”