Wednesday, June 7, 2017

In the Media: Recent Changes to Gender Pay Gap Legislation

Recent changes to government legislation on the gender pay gap and how it is regulated has seen a move towards the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting. This means that all companies with over 250 employees must now legally publish figures on how much men and women employees are paid. We had a look at how this has been received in the media, and what this means in working towards reducing the gender pay gap.

In February 2016, we ran a blog highlighting the issue of the gender pay gap, standing at 19.2% at the time, and spoke to Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation – who highlighted how regulation and practices surrounding the gender pay gap are both ‘outdated’ and ‘redundant’. Since then, the law on regulating the gender pay gap has changed, meaning that any company with employee numbers over 250 are now required by law to publish figures on the gender pay gap, gender bonus gap, percentage of men and women employees receiving bonus’ and the proportion of men and women employed by the company.
This is good news, right? A step in the direction – it has been recognised by the government that the gender pay gap will not be eradicated without legislation and pressures on larger companies. This new form of legislation aims to create transparency in how much women and men employees are being paid and tighten regulation on aiming to reduce the gender pay gap. There has been a media flurry surrounding this, with some media outlets suggesting that this new legislation is the first step in progressive change for reducing the gender pay gap, and others suggesting that it has simply not gone far enough
The new legislation should work to put pressure on companies to work to reduce the gender pay gap and strive towards equal pay, as the publication of these figures can reflect negatively on the reputation of a company if there is shown to be a considerable gender pay gap. These figures will be open access, so companies will now be held publicly accountable for unequal levels of pay.
However, recent reports in the media have shown a reluctance from some companies in publishing these figures – with reportedly only 5 out of 9000 required firms having published their figures so far, and some firms refusing to publish figures on the basis that this data is not stored collectively, citing difficulty with this due to the amount of time that it may take to publish these figures as negatively impacting working hours.
Companies are also required to provide an explanation for their figures, and it has been suggested that some firms may be holding back on the publication of data that highlights gender inequalities or pay gaps within the firm, waiting until a wave of publications come in so that the focus is diverted away from any one particular company within a sudden influx of data.
This is clearly all speculative, but from engaging with the immediate media reaction there seems to be some levels of questionability around how far the new legislation will go in practice in working to close the gender pay gap. We can only keep following it for now as figures continue to be published by companies, and hope that this legislation will serve to kick start the motion in a future of equal pay and opportunity for women.

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