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By LegalEdge News

Greedy jobs and the gender pay gap

What are greedy jobs?

In many sectors long working long hours are the norm and often considered necessary in a competitive environment (tech, media, finance, law, etc.). Long hours can even, sadly, be seen as a status symbol. Regardless of how much productive work is actually done, being present in the office or on-line, responding to emails whatever the time of day or night, working on weekends and being on-call for clients at any time is an expectation of many roles. These are known as ‘greedy’ jobs.

How do greedy jobs affect the gender pay gap? What is the ‘motherhood penalty’?

Greedy jobs don’t mix well with family life. Once children come along, it is often not feasible for both parents to be working in such demanding roles. Research[1] has shown that it’s more likely to be the woman (in heterosexual couples) who takes on a less demanding, lower paid job, often part-time, because they usually have fixed hours, so enable her to be the primary carer for children as well. This is why greedy jobs have been identified as one of the causes for the persistence of the gender pay gap.

Why does It matter?

Many reasons…. take Denmark for example. Working long hours is discouraged, in fact it can be viewed as a measure of inefficiency. Most people leave/stop work at around 4pm to pick up their children. Which means more Danish women can have paid jobs outside the home – currently about 72%, which is far above the OECD average of 59%. And Denmark has some of the world’s highest productivity rates.  Much higher than workers in the USA, Canada, Japan and Australia[2]. Respecting working hours and providing flexibility will also very likely help with attracting and retaining the best talent. As well as reducing the risk of potential legal claims like discrimination.

What can you do?

  • Regularly review who works what hours, what they are paid and why. You should be monitoring this even if you don’t have to publish data on it (like larger corporates do).
  • Respect the parameters of the workplace and intrude on employees’ home life as little as possible. 
  • Consider what practical steps you can take to discourage an ‘always on’ culture?
  • Lead by example, stick to staff working hours for calls and emails and be clear that you don’t expect people to work or respond to calls/emails outside their working hours.
  • While part-time work is attractive to parents and carers for obvious reasons, part-time workers should not be expected to work more hours than they are contracted for. Additional hours worked should be pre-agreed (without pressure) and paid. See our blog on protecting part-time workers
  • Be flexible. The pandemic has shown that this does not have to lead to a loss of productivity[3]. This is one of the best ways to retain women and others needing flexibility in their life. 
  • While hybrid/home working is much more widespread following the pandemic, make sure you have a diverse mix of those working from home and in the office. Allowing distinct groups to form risks discrimination claims later on because it’s often female employees working from home so they can juggle the needs of family life, and more male employees coming into the office. See our blog on Hybrid Working.

How can we help?

We can help develop policies and processes to help monitor for greedy jobs and a gender pay gap, as well as those for flexible and part-time working, and we can deliver training for a less ‘greedy’ workplace culture – see our HR Legal service or send us an email.

Additional sources:

Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity by Claudia Goldin

[1] See for example, Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity by Claudia Goldin. (Did we really need research for this?!)



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