The GW4 Pay Equality Research Consortium (PERC)

Initiator and Accelerator Fund

Project period: May to August 2015 (Initiator) February – August 2016 (Accelerator)

GW4 community leads

University of Bath: Dr Susan Milner
University of Bristol: Professor Harriet Bradley, Dr Gregory Schwartz
Cardiff University: Dr Alison Parken, Rhys Davies
University of Exeter: Professor Carol Woodhams, Dr Emma Jeanes

Project overview

By way of background to the project, the UK Government has a stated objective to close the pay gap between men and women to nil by 2035. On 14 July 2015, they launched a consultation on regulations that will make it mandatory for companies with 250 or more employees to and publish their gender pay gap. Implementation is expected in March 2016. Currently the precise details and format of reporting requirements is unclear. It will be the task of organisations such as EHRC, ACAS, the CIPD, the CBI, the TUC and individual unions to advise UK employers on good practice implementation. The timing of our plans puts us in a good position to work in partnership with these bodies and be part of that initiative. The design of the tool will be informed by primary and secondary data from employers and technical experts.

The eventual purpose of the data collection tool is firstly to create a source of confidential and anonymised best-practice pay-gap advice for UK employers and secondly as a research instrument. The research agenda is to collate uploaded data to investigate the intersectional effects of structure, context, and identity in pay inequality. We will address two research gaps; the intersection between gender-based and other forms of disadvantage as “new inequalities emerge and traditional ones diminish” (O’Reilly et al, 2014: 312) and “the link between employer behaviour and the gender-wage gap [which] is a much less well-researched area than sectoral comparisons or economy-wide and cross-national studies” (O’Reilly et al, 2014: 308).

There are four stages to our proposed methodology; a desk-based research stage, an employer liaison stage, a survey stage and a series of review and bid-writing meetings.

  1. This stage will produce an assessment of the research capacity of a salary data collection tool; its potential and its constraints, resulting in a report of the viability and required resources for further funding. The desk research parameters are data security, legal, technical and personnel/ administrative requirements  (1st March 2016 for 2.5 months) lead by Cardiff University Business School
  2. Qualitative interviews (Mid-March to mid-May), Interviews conducted with employers will enable us to understand their level of understanding and engagement with pay inequality and intersectionality, the perceived risks to them in participating in pay inequality research and factors that may facilitate their participation lead by Exeter University Business School in conjunction with Bath University.
  3. Quantitative survey. Stage 3 will comprise a survey of employers. Based on our findings and conclusions from stages 1 and 2, we will test our understandings about methods of access and the legal, institutional, organisational and other barriers to salary data collection on a wider scale. This stage will commence in April 2016 lead by Cardiff University Business School.
  4. Sustainability and development of the consortium. During the first week of each month commencing Feb – July 2016 the six community leaders and the research assistant will meet to ensure the sustainability of GW4 activity and plan the next phase of grant funding. Locations Bristol, Bath, Exeter and Cardiff.

The outcomes of each stage (corresponding to the above) are:

  1. A feasibility report – approx. 7,500 words by the 31st July.
  2. A set of transcribed interviews and a report by 31st July 2016 evaluating the state of employer engagement with investigating pay inequality. From this data we will also understand the way that employers frame pay inequality as an employment issue. We anticipate this making a significant contribution in a high quality publication – submission by Dec 2016.
  3. By the 31st July we will report on cross-tabulated data identifying differences in attitudes across business sectors, industries and sizes. Findings will generate at least one high-quality publication. We will also use delineated findings to identify organisations which may be most likely to respond to our future approaches for access. This will directly inform the scope and design of our future funding bid and project. We will also be able to develop segmented marketing propositions.
  4. Outcomes from this stage will include a strengthened inter-university research cluster, submission for further funding, an end-of-project dissemination event and on-going publicity.

GW4 universities employ around 40 colleagues working directly on pay and income inequality, gender disadvantage or affiliated areas within research institutes and centres. These include the Women Adding Value to the Economy Programme (Cardiff) the Centre for Analysis of Social Policy (Bath), the FSSL Research groups in Global Political Economy and Migration (Bristol) and the Behaviour, Identity and Decisions cluster – subgroup Gender and Diversity (Exeter). GW4 Accelerator funding will enable us to formalise links between groups, consolidating and integrating separate research clusters to strengthen our collective interdisciplinary expertise.

Read a post by Professor Carol Woodhams

“The pay gap is not inevitable, there are things that can be done to tackle it” says EqualPayPortal’s Sheila Wild