At this month’s ‘CPD for In-house Lawyers’ seminar, Amanda Jones – Head of the Employment, Pensions & Immigration team at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP – spoke to us about gender pay gap reporting. Here, Amanda reflects further on what this means for organisations and those involved with collating the data.

April might herald the start of spring, but it is also the month employers with more than 250 employees need to turn their minds to collating data to allow them to comply with the new Gender Pay Gap Regulations.

The provisions are now in force and the snapshot date for the information is 5 April or 31 March, depending on whether the employer is in the private or public sector. This means that any pay period (be it weekly, fortnightly or monthly) which includes this date will provide the relevant data for calculating whether there is any pay gap in hourly rates of pay between men and women, as well as bonus pay and the proportions of men and women who receive a bonus.

The regulations are complex, and those who are responsible for compiling the data will no doubt be heaving a heavy sigh as they go about determining how their pay systems can provide the relevant information. There is, however, little relief for employers who find their ‘to do’ list already challenging and do not have the time or resources to allocate to compliance. That said, while the results of the number crunching don’t have to be provided until next year, there are many organisations which are taking a proactive approach to the obligations. Some employers, such as Easyjet, SSE and Virgin, have already reported and, in many cases, employers have set out targets and action plans to demonstrate what they are going to do about reducing gaps which have been identified.

Such a proactive approach highlights the main issues which the regulations raise in my view. Firstly, are employers going to use the reporting as an opportunity to make clear that they take diversity issues seriously and are actively trying to address issues? Secondly, they want to be in control of the messaging around the reporting. The fight for talent continues to present challenges in a number of industries, not least the legal profession. While the majority of those entering the legal profession are now women, the most recent research conduct by the Law Society of Scotland demonstrates that there are still significant differences in the remuneration of women and men at various stages in their careers. Employers are likely to want to make clear that they are addressing any issues of inequality as no employer will want to be the one who has the biggest pay gap and no action plan in place to remedy that.

We know from the recent United Airlines PR debacle, the dramatic effect negative PR can have on a brand. While a gender pay gap is not quite the same as forcibly removing paying passengers from aeroplanes, employers will not want to damage their brands either with employees, customers or stakeholders by appearing cavalier about apparent inequalities. They will want to be able to put forward a positive message both to potential recruits and their client base. This is likely to be best achieved by seeing gender pay gap reporting obligations as an opportunity for organisations to take control of the message they want to give internally and externally about how seriously they take issues of diversity in general and even using it as a recruitment tool. That might be one way of avoiding a forecast of April showers next year!

A copy of Amanda's slides from the session are available here. Find out more about our upcoming ‘CPD for In-house Lawyers’ sessions. To help us improve our programme, we're looking for your suggestions for future CPD seminar topics. To contribute, email inhouse@lawscot.org.uk with your ideas.

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