Do you underpay women?

20 April 2017 -


It’s time to own your gender pay gap story

Mark Crail

New rules on gender pay gap reporting, first outlined in 2015, came into force on 5 April. They require every employer with over 250 employees to publish six metrics that may – in many cases – shred their claim to be an equal opportunities employer.

You have until April next year to publish this data but, before you sigh with relief, your report has to be based on what people were paid in April 2017. So, if your gender pay gap isn’t going to reflect well on the company, that 18-month grace period between announcement (2015) and implementation (now), during which you could have got your house in order, has passed.

You may, of course, be unconcerned. Doubtless you’ve been running the numbers for years and are quietly confident about your own gender pay gap numbers.

If so, you’re in the minority: when XpertHR surveyed employers at the turn of the year, just 6.2% said they had been formally monitoring their pay gap before the regulations were announced.

Now I should point out that a further one in three (33.2% to be exact) said they monitor their gender pay gap “informally”, but I cannot tell you  how often “informally” translates as: “Well, no, we don’t, but it’s too embarrassing to admit that.”

Okay, so what should we do?

Over the past year, XpertHR has been carrying out these calculations on behalf of employers, and many have been taken aback at the extent of their gender pay gap. In fact, it appears there are lots of company pay gaps, around half of which are worse than the Office for National Statistics’ estimate of  20% for the whole UK economy.

Read more: Find out who CMI's Blueprint for Balance can help

The problem is particularly marked  in the finance sector. (There is a  mass of material online about the differences between unequal pay and gender pay gaps.) If you do find you have a pay gap to report (the requirement being that it appears on your company website for the next three years), there will be consequences.

You may think: “Hey, 10% – that’s pretty damn good!” But will your people agree? Aren’t your employees (and those thinking about applying for a job with you) going to  ask themselves why you pay men 10% more than women?

Of course, like for like, you probably don’t. But, unless you understand those numbers, get your communications plan in place and are willing to explain what the gender pay gap is all about, the reasons your organisation has one and what, if anything, you are going to do about it, you’ll invite disgruntlement.

So what should you be telling people about your gender pay gap?

  • Start by explaining the whole scenario and why a pay gap differs from unequal pay.
  • Set out what your organisation already does to ensure equal opportunities.
  • Put your own figures in context – how do they compare with others  in your industry; are there other  data sets that shed more light on the situation?
  • Express the gap in pounds and pence, rather than the percentage terms that the law requires. This may make it appear less scary.
  • If you have plans to do something about it, tell people.

You cannot sort out the UK’s gender pay gap alone, but you can begin to  look at your recruitment practices, whether your job requirements can be met in other ways, and the speed with which men and women progress through the ranks.

The government has threatened  the big stick of enforcement action  for those who do not comply with this new law. But the real impetus is that your reputation is on the line.

If you don’t tell your own story, someone else will tell it for you.

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