Gender pay gap reporting – where are we now?

By Sheila Wild, author of the CIPD gender pay gap reporting guide

The latest dates for filing the past year’s gender pay gap reports have come round again – 30 March for the public sector, and 4 April for private and voluntary sector organisations. I’ll be updating the CIPD guide on gender pay gap reporting ahead of next year’s reporting deadline but, for now, I’m going to take a look at emerging trends.

Awareness of gender pay gap reporting was given a boost by the removal of employment tribunal fees, meaning that there is now a window of opportunity for those wishing to pursue equal pay claims. The publicity surrounding Carrie Gracie's equal pay complaint against the BBC made the gender pay gap real in a way that only the experience of one recognisable individual can do. It also reminded us all that disclosing information about pay can surface potential equal pay issues, and it is ironic that the BBC's disclosure was not in the context of gender pay gap reporting, but was part of its existing obligation as a public body to disclose top salaries.

The gender pay gap at a company level is now out in the open. It's no longer safe to rest on your laurels and assume that because you pay people fairly, you don't have a gender pay gap. Any gap is there for all to see, and unless you’re content to operate in a state of perpetual embarrassment, you're going to have to do something about it.

Rebalancing the gender profile at the top of companies has been on the business agenda for a long time, but pay gap reporting has given it a new impetus. For some organisations, this is tough – if your business calls for a supply of economics graduates to fill your higher paid posts then you're going to find it hard to fix the gender pay gap, because there quite simply aren’t enough women economics graduates around.

Some organisations are also making changes to the ways in which they recruit people, increasing their efforts to get out to schools, for example, but many more are making changes to their reward systems, prompted largely by the exposure of bonus gaps. If a bonus gap is unacceptably large, then it’s as well to take a closer look at how pay is determined. The focus on payment systems is leading to a noticeable trend of simplification of reward, with organisations doing away with allowances that no longer make sense, or bonuses that appear disproportionate.

The simplification of pay systems has the potential not only to reduce any gender and ethnicity pay gaps, but also to narrow pay ratios. Simplification puts the focus back on the job, rather than on the individual. This is not to say that individual endeavour or performance should go unrewarded, but that such rewards should be clearly defined, properly measured, and their distribution monitored. Simplification offers not only more equitable outcomes, but more control over the pay bill.

Scrutinising the reward structure is picked up in the latest guidance from the Government Equalities Office (GEO) which suggests looking at whether men and women doing comparable work receive different bonuses, pay for unsociable hours, or overtime. The guidance also suggests comparing starting salaries by gender within comparable roles. In addition, the GEO/Acas overview of gender pay gap reporting has been updated and there is a new four step guide to developing an action plan. All of these build upon the findings of previous research into employers’ understanding of the gender pay gap, the regulations, and the actions employers are taking to close their gender pay gap.

With legislation on ethnicity pay gap reporting in the pipeline, and with the public now having an appetite for pay transparency, the progress of gender pay gap reporting is clearly something to keep an eye on.

For an introduction to this subject, download our 10 top tips on gender pay gap reporting.

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  • It's not just economics where there are too few women graduates - it's mathematics, chemistry, physics, engineering (civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical) and many other scientific and technical disciplines.  Why?