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Who should be involved in gender pay reporting

Updated: Feb 16

The Equality Act (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 will cover all companies with over two hundred and fifty employees – about 7,000 businesses, employing about ten and a quarter million workers (about 40% of the UK workforce) so it can be seen that they will affect a lot of people.

Although the law is scheduled to come into effect from 2018, several elements of the information that will be required at that time relate to the financial year that has already begun (2016/7) and therefore, the time for businesses to start thinking about and planning for how they will deal with the requirements of the Regulations is now.

However, even though the schedule has a degree of immediacy, it would be unwise to rush into an information-gathering exercise since this runs the risk of releasing information that is misleading and potentially damaging to the organisation.

Nevertheless, time and the law wait for no man and so the employer needs a strategy to discharge their duties whilst ensuring that they do themselves no damage.

The place to begin is the point at which the raw data are collected and collated. Human Resources and Payroll departments will be the first port of call for the information. HR can provide information on the staff numbers – male/female, full time/part time, age breakdown, career and seniority analysis) whilst Payroll can provide the corresponding pay and bonus information.

Provided that the information supplied is accurate (and obfuscation is an extremely unwise strategy), and it has been analysed and presented correctly, the employer then needs to look long and hard at the numbers so that it can start to develop a narrative to accompany them.

Statistics, just like children, should never be allowed out on their own. They would be subject to a great many interpretations, few if any of which would be either correct or flattering to the organisation that produced them.

The narrative is the method by which the company can anticipate and proactively deal with any issues that are thrown up by the figures. Having a coherent narrative in place when the figures are released will enable all members of the organisation to remain on-topic should media interest take a turn for the worse.

Bearing in mind the need to put a positive spin on less than thrilling figures, employers would do well to consider making use of the wisdom of diversity experts. A rare sight in days gone by, they are now far more common since the advent of the Equality Act 2010 and the drive towards awareness of the need to ensure fair and equal treatment for all groups within the workforce. Even if a company doesn’t have a diversity specialist, they will most likely have someone in the HR department who knows most about it.

Once the narrative has been developed and the organisation primed in its responses and reactions, another key member of the team can be enrolled – a communications specialist. Whether this be a PR person or otherwise, the experience of handling enquiries from the media and other organisations, not to mention other members of staff within the company, will bring a much-needed focus to the handling of the figures.

The regulations require that the gender pay gap report be signed off by a member of the senior management team – a director or equivalent – but exactly who is to carry out this duty has not been specified. The relevant person needs to be chosen, should agree with taking on the responsibility and be given the appropriate training and information to help them understand their duties.

Whilst many of the recommendations so far have concerned activities and steps within the organisation, dealing with everything in-house may lead to accusations that the information is biased and tilted to paint the organisation in a good light. To avoid this kind of accusation, organisations could make use of an appropriate third party to look over the information and report, providing a disinterested opinion. Being able to point to a measure such as this will increase confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the figures.

If the road is paved with well-sourced information and a clear story, the risk of reputational damage externally and unrest internally when pay figures are published is likely to be lower than if the numbers are published with little or no background information.

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