Who is keeping an eye on gender pay gap reporting?

By Sheila Wild, founder of www.equalpayportal.co.uk and author of the CIPD guide to Gender Pay Gap Reporting

With only a handful of employers having yet published their gender pay gap figures, is it possible to draw any conclusions about how gender pay gap reporting is shaping up?

The gender pay gap reporting regulations require employers with 250 or more employees to publish a specific set of figures on their organisation’s gender pay gap. Employers also have to produce a written statement, signed off by a named individual, confirming the accuracy of the information presented. Employers may also publish a narrative explaining the gender pay gap and an action plan explaining how they will close the gap.

The figures and the statement of accuracy must be published on the employer’s own website and must be accessible to employees and the public for at least three years. Employers must also upload these onto the government’s Gender Pay Gap Reporting Service: https://www.gov.uk/report-gender-pay-gap-data

The public can research employer data on a sister site, the Gender Pay Gap Viewing Service The employer’s written statement is accessed through a link to the employer’s own site. The Viewing Service also enables the reader to access spreadsheets containing the employer data and to search by industrial sector, thus making the data from individual employers compatible with an ONS interactive tool enabling people to find out the gender pay gap for their job 

So, the first lesson is that there are not two, but four websites to keep an eye on: the employer’s own site; the Reporting and Viewing sites, and the ONS interactive tool. While HR professionals will be actively involved with only the first two of these, other interested parties –will more than likely be looking at the information on the Viewing Service and comparing this with what’s on the ONS’ site. The likelihood of this happening needs to be built into the organisation’s communications plan, for example, by explaining where your organisation’s gender pay gap sits in relation to those of others in your sector.

The second lesson is that employers have considerable freedom to choose how, when and where to present their gender pay gap figures. Virgin Money published its gender pay gap in the Women in Finance Charter section of its 2016 Annual Report 

Schroders published its global figures in its Annual Report on Remuneration and will in due course report on its UK figures.

The third lesson is to look beyond the headlines at the actual report itself. The figures from Schroders were widely assumed to be for the UK; they are not, and it is only on reading the Remuneration Report that you realise this. Beware reports from the lazy journalists!

The final lesson is that not all employers understand the reporting process, and have, for example, not named the person responsible for sign off. This raises the question of who will curate the the relevant sites? By ‘curation’ I mean that someone, somewhere, will, check that for each employer all of the relevant calculations of the gap are being made; that those calculations are being uploaded onto an employer website that is open to the public, and onto the Reporting site; that the figures have been signed off by a named individual – thereby enabling interested parties to contact the organisation for further information – and that all of the relevant information also appears on the Viewing Service site.

Curation is important because a considerable amount of HR time will go into gender pay gap reporting and HR professionals will want to know they are competing on a level playing field. If some organisations comply with the regulations and others do not, or if some are selective about what they report on, there will at the very least be a feeling that a lot of work has been wasted.

If gender pay gap reporting is to succeed, then HR professionals need to be assured that standards are being set and that someone is checking these standards are being observed. In short, they will want to know that the work they put in is going to lead to the promised outcome of a more strategic approach to tackling the gender pay gap. Only time will tell if this case.

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