By Helen Ablett, Public Relations Manager at the CIPD
In the year that has marked 100 years of suffrage, women’s rights have rarely been out of the headlines. This feels like a pivotal moment for change and gender pay gap reporting has proven to be an unlikely hero in catapulting action on equality to the top of business agendas.
For many organisations it has revealed an uncomfortable truth about their workforce. We’re just days from the official deadline and thousands of companies are yet to report, with some perhaps hoping their numbers will be lost in the ‘herd’.
The late disclosures highlight exactly why the reporting is needed: if the numbers are uncomfortable then there is clearly work to be done.
And if organisations are concerned about their reputation, then what message does it send for companies to wait to the last minute to report? Rather than shy away from the figures organisations should accept them, be upfront about them and commit to changing them.
This will involve HR and reward experts, the senior team, and will also require the involvement of your communications team early on. While a narrative isn’t mandatory, it is important that companies ‘own’ their story, least others be tempted to write it for them. We’ve worked with the Government and Equalities Office (GEO) and other stakeholders to promote the importance of the narrative that accompanies official figures.
The narrative should clearly explain what the numbers are, what factors are driving the gender pay gap and the action that will be taken to narrow the gap in the coming years. It sounds simple, but from our own experience we know just how long this process can take. We were among the first 250 organisations to report our gender pay gap and our analysis showed that the CIPD has a gender pay gap of 14.9% mean and 10.8% median - you can read the full detail and our action plan in our report.
The process of understanding the factors driving our gender pay gap took time, weeks even, but this is a crucial part of the communications journey. You have to know what you are dealing with in order to share an accurate narrative, and a realistic action plan that will ultimately trigger change. Otherwise you risk making empty promises that don’t shift the dial and become a reputational risk further down the line.
Then comes the writing. The narrative should be clear and upfront on the issues creating the gap and be indicative of the steps you will take to achieve change. Ideally it will also provide a wider indication of your firm’s approach to inclusion.
Once the narrative is clear, it’s important to think about a communications plan and how you will engage with all of your stakeholders, from media and investors to the Board.
However, this story is first and foremost about the workforce so it’s important to share the numbers with them before you publish externally. We went out to the whole of the CIPD workforce with a message from our Director of People, explaining the numbers and our commitment to change. An internal FAQ was shared and we invited questions and feedback from the team.
We timed our external announcement to go out shortly afterwards, and announced our gender pay gap in a dedicated press release and our annual report. Our figures were also shared through our weekly newsletter, on social media and in our monthly member magazine People Management.
Rather than treating gender pay gap reporting as a mere compliance exercise, we chose to be open and transparent and to have a public conversation with our members and others about the challenges we face and to solutions. So far, our story has been well-received.
Companies that give an honest account and recognise their role in challenging entrenched ‘norms’ will be in a much stronger position than those who try and ‘bury’ the numbers. The communications team has a key role to play in helping organisations to own their narrative in this first year and in years to come.
The CIPD has produced a guide to gender pay gap reporting here: https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/relations/gender-pay-gap-reporting/guide
Thank you for your comments. There may be a short delay in this going live on the blog page as we moderate the comments added to our blogs.
Although the idea of gender pay gap reporting is good, I do not fully agree with the premise. The focus should be on whether men and women earn the same in the same job given comparable length of service or work experience and not whether your male CEO earns more money than a female junior employee.
It’s important to think about a communications plan.
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