The Government Equalities Office recently launched a consultation on mandatory gender pay reporting for larger public sector employers in England. The new regime will largely mirror that already proposed for private and voluntary sector employers, with a deadline for publishing the first gender pay reports in April 2018.
Mandatory gender pay reporting will only apply to public bodies in England listed in the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011 (schedules 1 and 2) with 250 or more employees. Public sector bodies (and organisations carrying out public functions) in England with 150 or more employees already publish workforce diversity information to demonstrate their compliance with the ‘equality duty’ set out in the Equality Act, although their specific compliance duties (covered by secondary legislation) currently do not require them to disclose gender pay gap information.
Some bodies do make this available voluntarily, though. The Mayor of London published gender pay gap figures for City Hall in July which showed a gap of 4.6 per cent and that only 29 per cent of staff earning over £100,000 were female, although women make up more than half the workforce.
Scotland and Wales have taken different approaches to the equality duty as this is a devolved matter, and Scottish public bodies are already required to publish gender pay gap data. Some cross-border authorities and public authorities operating across Great Britain in non-devolved functions will be caught by the new regulations.
The ‘specific duties’ regulations will be amended to incorporate the new mandatory gender pay reporting obligations. Public sector employers must publish their first reports no later than 4 April 2018 to cover the pay period up to 5 April 2017. (Private and voluntary sector employers must publish their reports by 29 April 2018, but these dates may change in the final version of the regulations.) The Equality and Human Rights Commission will be able to take court action for non-compliance in the public sector.
Although employers now have some breathing space, preparing sooner rather than later is recommended given the scale and potential impact of the legislation.
Top tips for public bodies:
- Understand what data you will need and whether this is already easily accessible. If not, there is still time to put in place the necessary processes to gather the required information
- Carry out a gender pay audit to identify the likely extent of your gender pay gap and the reasons for it. Appointing an independent consultant for this exercise may be the most efficient way to do this
- Benchmark against other similar organisations, if possible, to identify whether or not your figures are particularly noteworthy
- Consider what information you will want to add to put the bald figure in context. Are there historical, social or other economic reasons for the gap? Has the workforce been affected by TUPE transfers or by other amalgamations which help explain the gap? What steps have been tried in the past to address the gap and why might these have failed to deliver results?
- The headline figure may be misleading so drill down. Does breaking down the data by age, grade, location, full- and part-time tell a different story?
- Start to plan a strategy to address the gender pay gap. While an initial gap will be unavoidable, demonstrating progress year on year will be expected
- Adopt a joined-up approach to ensure resources are dedicated in the annual budget to targeted recruitment campaigns, learning and development and female mentoring campaigns aimed at up-skilling women to enable them to take on more senior roles
- Consider whether terms and conditions need to be overhauled. For example, do you have flexible and part-time working policies for more senior roles? If you have enhanced maternity benefits or return to work bonuses, are these suitably publicised?
- Start a conversation with trade union representatives now to see if they have any ideas or preferences about helping to close the gender pay gap
- Plan your communications strategy, internally and externally, for when you publish your gender pay gap report, including the best time for this to be made public. Ensure the PR department is fully prepared beforehand.