During a pandemic, it’s hard to put in place pay hikes to correct for inequities when, for many, pay raises are off limits and employees are being laid off or facing the prospect. 

So, how should companies go about addressing pay equity during the pandemic? 

Let’s examine the situation.

The Issue

The COVID-19 outbreak is forcing companies to choose whether to stick with their regular pay equity determinations and resulting remediation efforts – or not. After all, many organizations are currently training their sights on operational issues and cost containment. So, what to do? The following are four areas of action companies can focus on.

Keep On Assessing Risks

You don’t want to lose momentum gained over the years from marked efforts to both close pay gaps and impede such gaps from reemerging. However, if regular pay equity monitoring is halted, that’s precisely what could happen. 

What is known is the process of pay equity assessment itself can deter unfair acts when it comes to compensation. A report by the human resources consulting firm Mercer indicates organizations undergoing regular pay equity evaluations are ultimately more likely to hire and retain top-shelf talent, resulting in greater workforce diversity.

Dropping that review standard, even for a year, can sow doubt among managers as to the company’s commitment and foment broader challenges down the road. In turn, this could result in a resurgence of pay inequities.   

Scale Down Where Necessary

Consider making pay adjustments or taking other actions where disparities are found. Keep in mind, though, such actions can occur over time. In the short term, emphasis can be placed on maintenance rather than progress. When budgets are shored up later, activities can be accelerated.

Mull New Ways to Counter Gaps

It’s just a fact that the pandemic will force some cuts in pay. So, perhaps you should consider using this time to adjust the compensation of those who are currently deemed overpaid. Focusing on those who are overpaid – a segment highly populated by men – can substantially speed up overall pay gap closure.

A quality pay equity analysis will generally turn up many cases where pay containment or reduction can be implemented. Such cases are opportunities outside the pay equity imperative to manage costs overall.

Check Out the Root Causes of Pay Inequity

How organizations respond to the pandemic will directly impact some of the factors that most determine compensation. However, such actions may disproportionately affect women and people of color, especially when “last in, first out” is in place — widening pay gaps for those populations.

Opportunity in Crisis

Nearly every organization will feel the effect of this pandemic. There will be stark and unprecedented challenges. How these organizations respond will greatly determine who emerges with a competitive edge – or even who makes it. 

Organizations that have robust pay equity processes bolster environments that give access to high-end, diverse talent. Such access continues to have import when one is forced to do less with more.

Pay equity analysis can be a vital portion of your company’s reaction to the pandemic itself, providing a path to help make certain that nascent labor risks are identified and addressed. It also provides an opportunity for organizations to take advantage of new ways to make the best use of their workforce investments.

While not ideal, addressing pay equity during the pandemic can reap more benefits than one might imagine. After all, as Winston Churchill once said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” 

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