UK: Gender Pay Gap Reporting – How Employers Can Action Change

As a refresher, the "gender pay gap"  is a measure of the difference between men and women's average earnings across an organisation, expressed as a percentage of male earnings.

If you are a business that has completed this analysis, published your findings and discovered that a gender pay gap exists at your organisation, we have set out a number of steps for you to consider in order to reduce this gap going forward.

1. Consider the reason behind your gender pay gap.

It is important to remember that equal pay and the gender pay gap are two different things. Equal pay is the concept of looking at employees who carry out the same jobs, similar jobs or work of equal value and assessing whether those employees are paid the same. The gender pay gap looks at the average pay disparity between men and woman employed at the same organisation.

There could be many reasons for a difference in average pay between men and women. For example, you may employ more men than women in high-paying or senior roles, or you may employ more women than men on part-time working arrangements.

Whatever the reason(s) behind your gender pay gap, it is important to understand each  reason fully in order to action change.

2. Implement policies which enable change.

As explained above, because the gender pay gap is different from equal pay, the solution is not as simple as increasing pay for women in certain roles and seeing your statistics change overnight. Although pay may be a contributing factor and may be something to review across the organisation, there are policies and initiatives that could create an environment where men and women have an equal opportunity to progress in your organisation. The right policy and initiative will depend on the reason(s) you have identified for your gender pay gap.

For example, if you have identified that there are more men employed at senior levels in your business, or in higher-paying roles, then you should explore the reasons behind this. Review your internal workplace attitudes: are women discouraged from applying for senior positions due to internal attitudes or the required working style? If so, can you change this? It would also be worth reviewing your historical data regarding the application and interview process for these roles: do women apply for senior positions but not get the role, or do you have very few women applying for these positions at all? You should consider reviewing your recruitment process in its entirety.

There is also a wider question to be asked here too: do women consider themselves as able to achieve as much as their male counterparts in your organisation?

Policies which may instigate change in these areas include  transparency as to job requirements at every level, internal succession planning and developing talent from within, implementing an internal mentoring system, ensuring you have role models for both sexes at every level and mandatory leadership courses for all employees who are at a certain level of seniority in the business.

3. Can there be more widespread flexible working?

If you have identified that one of the reasons behind your organisation's gender pay gap is that more women are employed on part-time working arrangements in comparison to men, then it may be an apt time to review your working policies and consider implementing policies and job descriptions that do not punish those who need or want more flexibility. This disparity is not only due to the fact that more women are working part time per se, but also that there are few senior roles available for those who wish to work part time. You may wish to consider whether you make clear that more senior roles can be carried out on a flexible basis too.

There is a society-wide perception that the woman is the primary child carer and this may lead women to make what could be considered as career-limiting choices in certain careers, such as needing to work from home, or asking to leave work early, or choosing to work part time. You can eradicate this perception in your workplace by adapting your working policies to suit the modern-day family and promote the sharing of responsibilities between men and women. Consider implementing an agile working policy, or encourage employees to place less emphasis on face time, allowing them to leave earlier and work from home in the evening or work from home one day a week.

4. Provide for equality in your policies

Similarly, it may be a good time to review your maternity and paternity policies. There has not been much male take-up of Shared Parental Leave (SPL), which enables  eligible mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to share up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay after a baby is born. It is argued that this is due to employers having differing maternity and paternity policies, whereby the mother receives enhanced maternity pay that goes beyond the minimum pay for SPL but the father does not. This can make it unaffordable for some families to opt in to SPL. So, if you are an employer who can offer beyond the minimum pay, and have men and women in your workforce who may wish to take up shared parental leave but cannot afford to, then increasing pay under your paternity pay policy may be worth considering.

5. Review your recruitment process.

If one of the reasons for your gender pay gap is the higher ratio of male to female employees at your business, it may be a good time to review your recruitment policy and collect data of interview and offer statistics. Do you attract, and invite to interview, an equal number of male and female candidates for every role? Do you have transparent internal recruitment processes, gender-balanced interview panels and unconscious bias training for everyone involved in your organisation, or at least everyone involved in appointing candidates?

Bias should be completely removed from any hiring, or promotion process. Decisions regarding who to interview, who to make offers to, who to promote and who to award bonuses to should be made as objectively as possible.

Whatever the reasons behind your gender pay gap, all organisations should make a concerted effort to understand why this has occurred and how the gap can be closed and should take steps to close it. There is currently no action plan from the government to close the gender pay gap within businesses via statutory means, but we expect that, in time, this will be introduced.

Dentons is the world's first polycentric global law firm. A top 20 firm on the Acritas 2015 Global Elite Brand Index, the Firm is committed to challenging the status quo in delivering consistent and uncompromising quality and value in new and inventive ways. Driven to provide clients a competitive edge, and connected to the communities where its clients want to do business, Dentons knows that understanding local cultures is crucial to successfully completing a deal, resolving a dispute or solving a business challenge. Now the world's largest law firm, Dentons' global team builds agile, tailored solutions to meet the local, national and global needs of private and public clients of any size in more than 125 locations serving 50-plus countries.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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