Gender pay gap reporting – tidying up the loose ends

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

With the reporting deadline fast approaching, over 1,600 organisations have so far published their gender pay gap reports. Rumour has it that many are intending to publish on International Women’s Day, which falls on the 8th March – we shall see. Meantime, it’s clear that, whatever the eventual compliance levels, there are several loose ends for the government to tidy up.

The source of information about which employers are caught by the regulations needs to be made explicit. It appears that a range of information is held, and that this is currently being reviewed to ensure its accuracy and usefulness as a definitive list. This must surely be a priority, not least so as to enable the Equality and Human Rights Commission to follow up on non-compliance. There is also a lack of clarity about exactly how many employers come within the scope of the regulations, with current estimates varying between 8,000 and 13,000. While numbers will fluctuate, this level of variability suggests that the picture is far from clear.

The government website also needs some tweaking. Earlier this week I emailed the webmaster to point out that some organisations appear under one more than category, for example, under both ‘public administration’ and ‘public sector’. This kind of duplication makes it difficult to compare one sector with another, but it also serves to inflate the total number of companies deemed to have reported. Both the guidance given to employers on how to categorise their organisation and the categories themselves need to be reviewed.

The Regulations, being ‘light touch’, will not be subject to clarification by the development of case law, and this means that some of the definitions need to be tightened up. Partners are currently excluded from the headcount, but a partner may, and in some situations frequently will, perform paid work. While an organisation that is fully committed to achieving gender equality could choose to be open about partner payments, ironing out this particular anomaly would lead to greater consistency and comparability. Similarly, what constitutes a bonus payment or an allowance, is proving to be a source of confusion, as is the treatment of childcare vouchers.

It is still the case that some organisations are unclear as to what the reporting requirements entail. I found several reports on the site which, while linking to the organisation’s website, did not link to its gender pay gap report; I also found one report which, while published online, did not appear on the government website. Is it significant, I wonder that this report came from the agricultural sector, where only one or two reports have been published, and no specific guidance appears to have been provided for the sector?

It is too soon, I think, to say, as the Fawcett sex discrimination law review has done, that civil penalties for non-compliance should be introduced and the threshold for reporting obligations lowered. Much more pressing is to ensure that the existing regulatory framework is as effective as it can be, and that all of the organisations caught by the Regulations fully understand what is expected of them.

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