The irregular thing about the Gender Pay Regulations…

As reported in our article “It’s all change in employment law in April…”, private employers with 250 employees or more should have collated their relevant data on the first annual “snapshot date”, on 5 April 2017. These employers must publish their calculations by 4 April 2018. Public employers’ “snapshot date” was 31 March 2017 and they must publish their calculations by 23 March 2018.
However, now that the process of calculating the key pieces of information has begun, many employers are realising that their figures reveal a significant (and often unexpected) pay gap. While the aim of the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (the Regulations) is to address the UK’s gender pay gap, the reality behind the figures published will not always paint an accurate picture. The figures may demonstrate a demographic gap, rather than an equal pay gap. For example, the cause of a gender pay gap may be the result of a greater distribution of men in higher paid roles, rather than a disparity in equal pay. However, just because data reveals a demographic gap, it does not mean that this is not something which the government is trying to address. The Regulations attempt to deal with this issue through the inclusion of quartile calculations.
Where employers’ data reveals that there is a gender pay gap, many employers will assert that they pay their employees in a non-discriminatory manner and try to justify the disparity as being a result of the workforce demographic. However, even where employees receive equal pay, the results do not remove the risk that there are other discriminatory factors causing the disparity. For example, while an employer’s pay gap may be a product of how its workforce is spread across the business, this might be a result of discrimination on a different level, such as against females applying for senior positions. Alternatively, there may be other sufficient reasons for a gender pay gap, such as a shortage of qualified men or women in a certain industry. Therefore, the calculations may go a long way to emphasise the issues that companies continue to face and could provide an impetus on employers to deliver a solution.
This is where the optional narrative can be an important element of employers’ publishing obligations. This is an opportunity for employers to provide a commentary on the figures published and pacify any reputational risk that might arise from publishing the headline figures alone. It is quickly becoming more widely understood that the Regulations do not in fact deal with equal pay but this does not mean that the government is not taking steps to tackle other factors that are causing a gender pay gap. Therefore, employers have the opportunity to use their narratives to acknowledge the issues they continue to face and offer a way forward to improve these problems in conjunction with the government’s efforts. By doing so, any pay gap may be explicable and employers can be seen to be responding to the results proactively. This in turn might potentially minimise the risk of adverse publicity or internal grievances raised by employees.

Helena Rozman

About Helena Rozman

Helena has experience in acting for both employees and employers covering both contentious and non-contentious work. Helena's experience includes defending Employment Tribunal claims and engaging in settlement negotiations; advising clients on complex disciplinary matters, exit strategies and large restructuring exercises, including TUPE and redundancy; co-ordinating and responding to data subject access requests; advising on the employment implications on business and asset purchases and outsourcing arrangements; project managing and advising clients on multi-jurisdictional projects with our international offices; drafting settlement agreements for exiting employees; advising on the employment aspects of corporate transactions and undertaking due diligence; and reviewing contracts, company handbooks and policies.

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