Gender pay gap reporting six months on

By Sheila Wild, founder of and author of the CIPD Guide to Gender Pay Gap Reporting

Six months in to the process of gender pay gap reporting, what can we say? Not a lot. Of the several thousand or so organisations required to report annually on their gender pay gap, so far only 115 have done so. I don’t read too much into this, as it’s up to each organisation to choose its own reporting date, but it does mean that we are a long way off understanding what the process is likely to reveal about the gender pay gap. All reports can be accessed on the Government’s Gender Pay Gap Viewing Service site.

Who has reported?

The majority of those who have reported are from the private sector, with housing, social care, arts organisations and providers of support and educational services among the sectors represented. The number of reports is too small to enable anything to be said about the gender pay gap itself – where is it deepest, and what is being done at company level to tackle it? but there are some useful pointers to the reporting process itself.

Who’s responsible?

The reports are most often the responsibility of the HR Director, with Chief Executives and Finance Directors also named, but a wide variety of roles have been assigned responsibility. In some instances, the person named on the gender pay gap reporting website is not the person who has actually signed off the report – there is no reason why this should not be so, but in terms of how the reports are perceived by the public, a company whose report is signed off by the Chair or President is likely to be seen as taking the issue more seriously than a company whose report is signed off by a Project Manager.

Publication on the company website

Some organisations appear to have misunderstood the requirement to publish the gender pay gap report on their own website – several purported links drew a blank, and there is no way of knowing whether this is due to the company having misunderstood what is expected, whether it is a deliberate omission, or whether it is a matter of timing, with publication imminent. Whatever, companies that have not put a report up on their own site are giving a poor account of themselves.

Narrative text

About half of the reports include some kind of narrative, but there is confusion between the obligatory supporting statement confirming that the figures are accurate, and an optional additional narrative explanation. Where optional material – over and above the bare figures required by the regulations – has been produced, it is most often either an infographic, or a verbal repeat of the figures; very few organisations have produced the kind of narrative text that will help the reader to understand the context within which the gender pay gap has arisen, or not, as the case may be. That being said, there are a half dozen or so outstandingly good reports, none of them lengthy, but each showing that the company fully understands what it is dealing with, and what it needs to do to address the gap. The most informative reports are not necessarily coming from organisations with a good track record in publicising what they have been doing to tackle gender disparities in the workplace, but are from a range of companies, some of which are relatively small.

What next?

Anyone hoping the reporting process is going to enable comparisons to be drawn between and within sectors, with a view to benchmarks being established, is likely to be disappointed; the information presented, even in the richer narrative format, quite simply does not lend itself to an in-depth analysis. Much will depend, not on the level of compliance per se, but on the willingness of organisations to take the time to understand their own gender pay gaps and what they need to do to tackle them. The better the quality of the accompanying narratives, the more informative and useful the exercise will be, and the more likely the process will be to prompt action to tackle the gender pay gap.

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