This April, the 2010 Equality Act will be enforced meaning that companies with over 250 staff will have to record and publish data revealing any gaps in pay based on gender. If your business falls under this staff number categorisation, you will need to be prepared to disclose your information. Whether you’re part of the management of a big business or a small one, it’s vital that you take action against current and potential systematic inequalities. This push for an investigation into policies and processes is especially pertinent to small businesses, in case laws are introduced further down the line.
Gender pay gap vs equal pay
The gender pay gap is not the same as equal pay, and the former is defined by the Equality and Human Rights Commission as ‘a measure of the difference between men’s and women’s average earnings across an organisation or the labour market. It is expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings. In Britain, there is an overall gender pay gap of 18.1%.’ Sometimes the concepts of equal pay and the gender pay gap become confused because of how easily they enmesh when speaking about one or the other.
Multitudinous examples of bad practice have arisen within the overarching themes of equal pay and the gender pay gap due to being sounded more and more in the media. This proliferation, it seems, is a result of both inadequate consolation and remediation.
Some companies have unfortunately substantial disparities, and as of late, the BBC has come into focus as a perpetrator especially in relation to its broadcast salaries. Its China Editor Carrie Gracie publicly resigned recently with a letter claiming that the pay culture is “secretive and illegal”. Some salaries at the BBC are the length of a phone number whereas others are in the hundreds of thousands, and while these examples are extortionate, they illustrate a general lack of consistency that even goes beyond gender.
However, the BBC is not alone in its gender pay gap issues, because sadly this is reflected in the wider economy. The ONS statistics from April 2017 show that the gender pay gap is 9.1%, and that little has changed in recent years in terms of reducing this figure. More specific statistics from the ONS pertaining to the gender pay gap state “The gender pay gap for full-time workers is entirely in favour of men for all occupations”.
Rather than there being a dwindling prospect of corrective activity, the new demand for data publication is a step in the right direction. The legislation will only be effective if there are penalties enforced by the government for companies that do not accurately report their data, however, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has powers of enforcement under the Equality Act because non-compliance equates to an unlawful act.
Employers have until 4 April to start reporting their data, and the pressure for greater transparency will force businesses to address why differences in pay exist. Ideally, the focus on and scrutiny of unexplained differences will help to diminish discriminatory behaviour. It is unlawful to pay women and men different rates for the same job (unequal pay), but the gender pay gap between all women in a workforce can also underscore a number of issues that must be addressed, including an ingrained societal gender bias. Even if your business is not quite at the 250 employees mark, cultivating the habit of investigating unequal pay scales and taking action to remedy them will only stand in your favour, as well as preparing you for potential legal changes you’ll inevitably face as your business grows.
More useful links:
The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 for private and voluntary-sector companies with 250 or more employees
The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017 for public bodies with 250 or more employees
Udemy course incorporating business psychology about uncovering and fixing deep-rooted gender bias in your business.
Rosie is a qualified Journalist, NCTJ certified, and is currently an MSt student in Literature and Arts at Oxford University. Having worked in editing, communications, and brand strategy in agencies in Seoul and London, she is passionate about producing intelligent writing with practical and creative value. Previously a Content Editor and Writer at the UK Domain.Read full profile