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'Pay gap at the multiples shows gender equality is some way off'

"Identifying the problem is at least a step in the right direction"

Gender attitudes have improved, but the pay gap at Boots and Well reveals continued inequality, says lawyer David Reissner

This year, International Women's Day marked the centenary of women getting the right to vote in the UK, and saw an escalation of the #MeToo campaign highlighting widespread sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the workplace. But gender equality is still some way off.

Sexual misconduct in the workplace is one of the ways in which women have not been treated as equals, but a recent High Court decision shows that attitudes have changed. The case concerned a hospital doctor, Dr Mohammed Yasin. Within two hours, Dr Yasin hugged two young, female nurses from behind, rubbed his hands on their bodies, pressed his erect penis against them and made inappropriate comments to them. There had been no other complaints against him during his eight years as a doctor.

Ms Justice Yip dismissed his appeal against erasure from the medical register, holding that although Dr Yasin's conduct did not amount to the most serious sexual assault, his behaviour could not be minimised. The judge commented on the shift in attitudes towards, and public perception of, low-level sexual offences, which are now regarded as being more serious than they once were – and rightly so.

Inequality is also apparent in what women get paid for equivalent work. Last year, the government introduced world-leading legislation that made it statutory for organisations with 250 or more employees to report annually on their gender pay gap. Boots has just reported that the average pay gap between male and female employees is 21%. Although 78% of its employees are female, they represent just 68% of the highest pay quartile.

Shortly after Boots, Well published similar pay gap figures. If the Boots and Well gender pay gaps are typical of community pharmacy, then there is a long way to go in terms of achieving pay equality. Nevertheless, identifying the problem is at least a step in the right direction.

Gender equality is not just about pay. Some women have held notable leadership roles in the pharmacy profession – Sue Sharpe, Helen Gordon, Nanette Kerr, Janice Perkins and Tricia Kennerley come to mind – and they have each made a significant contribution. However, it is still rare to see many women at the top table in pharmacy organisations or in ‎larger chains.

Amid the coverage of the Boots and Well gender pay gaps, we shouldn’t lose sight of other inequalities in healthcare and elsewhere in business. Equal representation in senior management positions should be a key target.

David Reissner is senior healthcare partner at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

4 Comments

C A, Community pharmacist

" [Women] represent just 68% of the highest pay quartile."

What I take from the figures is that Pharmacy needs to employ more males... since in the general UK population the split is 49% male to 51% female... that's gender inequality!!!

N.b. this is explainable and I'm not sure it's really a problem

Dave Downham, Manager

It's all comparing apples and pears. If a female Boots/Well pharmacist/dispenser found out that they were being paid less for the same role, then we would have a story.

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I think this "gender pay gap" is being mis-reported. The reports published by the multiples referred to "average pay for male vs female employees" - and, as has been noted elsewhere, there are more likely to be a higher proportiom of female employees in support roles (MCA, dispenser etc) compared to males and, as these roles tend to attract lower rates than pharmacists, it will appear there is a large discrepancy. However, I was expect the C&D to delve a little deeper and request info from the multiples regarding pay for pharmacists - male and female - and compare that to see if there is a gender pay gap. I suspect what will be found will be nothing - that men & women get paid the same for doing the same job, be it pharmacist, dispenser or counter assistant

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

Also, I am unclear why Mr Reissner opens his article with a report on sexual harrassment and inappropriate behaviour - although if his recounting is correct, this should be referred to as sexual assault - which only serves to a) muddy the water and b) clearly pad out an article which is, in fact, reporting nothing 

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