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Mind the (gender pay) gap

 

What is the news?

The BBC has reported that, as of 19 February 2019, 10% of employers have already published their latest gender pay gap results. Of those who have published their latest results, 4 in 10 of private companies (including Kwik Fit, Npower and Virgin Atlantic) report wider gender pay gaps than last year.

What does the news mean?

Companies, charities and public sector departments of 250 employees or more are legally obliged to publish their gender pay gap for 2018 in the coming weeks. The deadline for public sector firms is 30 March 2019, while charities and private companies have until 4 April 2019.

The gender pay gap is not about equal pay for equal work (the subject of the current Asda and Morrisons claims in the courts at the moment), it concerns the difference between women’s and men’s earnings across an organisation. The intention behind it is to make companies (and the general public) more aware of the differences in pay, and why these differences exist, in order to encourage awareness of gender equality.

There is no single reason why many companies pay men more than women on average, however, the figures do raise questions about structural inequalities in the workforce. The disparity could be due, for example, to the fact that women are more likely than men to work part-time or that women are often unrepresented in top-paid jobs within companies. With flexible working and remote working becoming more popular with employers this may change in the coming years, with the structure of the working day altering and the spread of responsibility increasing across both genders. Kwik-fit justifies the increase in their gender pay gap from -15.2% in 2017 (meaning female employees were paid more than their male counterparts) to 14% in 2018 on the basis that a number of senior female employees left the company which meant this has skewed their figures. Further, Npower has partially attributed their increase from 13% to 18% to more female than male employees opting for a salary sacrifice benefits scheme. Alternatively, it may just be that men are being paid more than women and closing that gap will continue to take time (equal pay legislation came into force in 1970…).

What do we think of the news?

With around five to six weeks until the deadline for gender pay gap reporting, it remains to be seen whether any companies will fall foul of their gender pay gap reporting obligations (last year 1,557 missed the deadline). Those who do not comply will be committing an “unlawful act” which will allow the Equality and Human Rights Commission to take enforcement action against them. The issue is that there is no real sanction if companies do not comply. There is the potential risk to reputation through the “naming and shaming” process and the high-profile interest this reporting continues to have, in light of the various gender equality movements in the media, which may encourage some companies to report (particularly ones who rely on public image). Ultimately though, given the results so far, it does lead you to wonder whether the reporting is having the desired effect of being more aware and reactive to the continuing disparities in pay between men and women.

If you would like any assistance with your gender pay gap reporting obligations or diversity and gender in general, you can contact Solicitor, Heena Kapadi on T: 0161 358 0540 or E: heenakapadi@hrclaw.co.uk or Associate, Siobhan Howard-Palmer on T: 0161 358 0537 or E: siobhanhoward-palmer@hrclaw.co.uk.

 This contains a general overview of information only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied upon, as legal advice. You should consult a suitably qualified lawyer on any specific legal problem or matter.