Gender Pay Day – 4 April 2018

UK Employment Law Alert | April.04.2018

Today's the day.

Today is the deadline for all employers with over 250 employees to publish gender pay gap information on the government website and on their own website.  The information that you have to publish is stark, leaving no room for manoeuvre and perhaps that is one of the reasons that this subject has really caught the zeitgeist.  Over the past few months, barely a day has gone by without some press coverage of this issue, with the excitement rising as some of the larger, more well known, employers have started to publish their data, showcasing some not so great numbers.

No commentary on gender pay would be complete without a small rant about the confusion between the gender pay gap and equal pay – a confusion that continues to dog almost all of the public debate on this issue.  We have had equal pay laws for nearly 50 years in this country and in general, we understand and comply with the requirement that people need to be paid equally for equal work.  Gender pay is about the average difference between the pay and bonuses of men and women.  It is about identifying that women don't progress in the workplace as well as men do, and that women are concentrated at levels where the pay is lower. 

Despite the initial frustration, we have come to appreciate (and enjoy) this confusion, because it is creating some unanticipated outrage.  When people hear that there is a pay gap of 60% at a particular well known employer, some are assuming that this means there are women who are paid 60% less than a man, in a similar role.  The (perhaps misplaced) outrage is fuelling action and action is fuelling genuine engagement and creativity from employers who are thinking hard, possibly for the first time, about how to address the gender pay gap.

We would encourage everyone to visit the government website (https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/Viewing/search-results) – although perhaps not today, as we fear the rush to hit the deadline for the estimated 1500 employers who have not yet complied, may cause some issues…. There are many pleasurable hours to be spent on this site, even for those with just a passing interest in social equality. 

Once you get past the excitement of the pay and bonus gap figures that appear in size 50 font on the first page, you may then have time to start clicking through to some of the company websites where they go into detail (in their voluntary narrative) about what they are going to do to close the gap.

Some are startling in their cynicism, adjusting their figures to compare like roles, rather than comparing the whole workforce, to show that their figures are not that bad after all.  But many are genuinely enthusiastic and inspiring and provide detail on cutting edge programmes that are being put in place in order to move women up the ranks and to attract them in at the bottom end, in the first place.

There is consistent recognition in these narratives that women have been expected for far too long to work in the same way as men, in order to progress.  Real thought has gone into how we can change this.  There is an emphasis on flexible working, agile working, culture change, soft targets, attracting and retaining women and a recognition that women bring something different and important to the workplace and we do a disservice to ourselves, if we miss out on that.

For today then, let's be positive and hope that this is the nudge that we need, to produce real change.