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UK Gender Pay Gap Regulations: If There’s Something Weird and it Don’t Look Good, who you gonna call? Mythbusters!

Courtesy of Acas, here are the top ten myths to be “busted” by the UK Government’s promised campaign to make the Gender Pay Gap Regulations look less over-engineered than they really are together with some italicised comments of our own.

MYTH: We did an equal pay audit a while ago so we’re fine

FACT: Equal Pay deals with comparing one job with another – the gender pay gap is about the difference in gender pay across a whole organisation.

True, but having the audit results under your belt means that even if there is a reportable gap for other reasons, its significance in legal terms will be reduced by reference to those results.

MYTH: I have a few female employees, I won’t make a difference

FACT: Every employee matters.  And chances are you might be in a business where women are under-represented and you’re losing out on a massive talent pool.

Difference to what?  Nobody is expecting you to redress a national imbalance by yourself, but individual employers can help their industry or sector progress.  In legal terms, it is also important to remember that having only a small number of women makes it easier for meaningful comparisons to be brought.

MYTH: There’s not much of a gender pay gap these days is there?

FACT: Over time, things have improved but there is more to do – for example the Office for National Statistics has revealed that male financial managers and directors still earn 32.4% more than women in the same occupation.

While the majority of employers will want to minimise their gender pay gap, it is important to remember that having a GPG does not mean you are guilty of unlawful discrimination.

MYTH: It’s always women who receive less money than men

FACT: Whilst it’s often the case that on average women earn less money than men in many workplaces, sometimes it can be men – pay gap reporting can help here too.

MYTH: It’s going to cost lots of money to get rid of my gender pay gap

FACT: Many changes involve addressing attitudes and practices rather than your bank balance – and some will save you money whilst improving staff retention.

It may do, but there is also an option to address the GPG through appropriate promotions.  You may find this is a more effective strategy in terms of cost to the business.  It may also have more of an impact on the GPG itself.

MYTH: Does this mean I can’t reward talented staff for hard work any more?

FACT: Things like qualifications, outstanding achievements and a certain amount of relevant experience may be proper business reasons to reward people – but an employee’s gender isn’t one of them.

Don’t be absurd, of course you can.  You only run into issues if all your best (and therefore best-paid) performers somehow turn out to be men despite bountiful evidence to the contrary, at which point your GPG will frankly be the least of your issues. 

MYTH: These figures are just going to embarrass me

FACT: You’re probably more worried than you need to be.  The important thing is to develop an action plan informed by the facts and provide a narrative, then post it.

Only if you make the mistake of confusing a reportable pay gap with actionable discrimination.  The vast majority of businesses will have gender pay gaps.  You need only be embarrassed if you can’t explain it.

MYTH: I need to be a maths genius to understand this stuff

FACT: There’s a bit to learn up front, but it really is about gathering your information and carrying out basic calculations using standard computer software – you might even have payroll software (or an amazing stats-loving employee) to help.

Not sure I could give one of my employees all my payroll data to play with just because he/she loves stats and may in some respects be amazing.  Employers should look to keep analysis within Legal or HR as a rule.  The maths is relatively simple in itself so the burden lies not in the calculation per employee but the sheer number of individual calculations you have to make and then keep track of when creating your pay quartiles.

MYTH: There’s no business advantage to this at all

FACT: Global consultancy McKinsey estimates that bridging the UK gender gap in work has the potential to create an extra £150 billion on top of 2025 business-as-usual GDP forecasts.

Which is obviously lovely but actually of only the most limited and speculative value now to any individual employer.

MYTH: This is a lot of extra work – we already have an equality action plan

FACT: If you have an equality plan or similar, that’s great – build gender pay actions into it, but just remember to have the calculations clearly published on your website.

Yes.  It is.  A lotBut as with a recent equal pay audit, the existence of a plan of this sort makes good copy in any narrative you add to the bare numbers in your GPG report.

© Copyright 2017 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP

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About this Author

David Whincup, Employment Attorney, Squires Patton Boggs Law Firm
Partner

Following ten years at a Magic Circle firm, David has been Head of our London Employment practice since 1994. His expertise gained from twenty-five years as a specialist Employment Law practitioner covers a wide variety of employment-related issues, including in particular individual and team recruitment issues, policy and contract drafting, disciplinary and grievance procedures, individual and collective redundancies, the defence of employee discrimination and dismissal claims and other litigation, whistleblowing, employee health, data protection and matters surrounding...

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