Consultation on revealing the gender pay gap

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On 14 July the Government launched a consultation on how to implement the forthcoming requirement on employers with 250 or more employees to publish gender pay gap information. A late addition to the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act (SBEE Act) requires the Secretary of State to consult and then make regulations under section 78 Equality Act 2010, no later than 12 months after the SBEE Act was passed, i.e. by 26 March 2016.

The consultation, entitled 'Closing the Gender Pay Gap', has been awaited since the SBEE Act received Royal Assent in March. Interestingly, however, the consultation questions do not centre around what sort of information or comparisons should be published. Whilst there are a number of ways that gender pay information could be compared (such as an overall figure, by part time and full time, by job grade, by starting salaries etc), the only question on this asks what information employers would already be able to calculate from existing data and systems. It does not ask what kind of information ought to be published. It is therefore unclear whether the regulations will leave it up to the employer what it publishes or whether specific categories of information will be required.

It is worth noting that 'employees' in this context is given its wider meaning (already used in relation to discrimination claims) which includes someone contracted personally to do work, so it essentially includes the category of 'workers'. It is not limited to the more usual definition of 'employee' i.e. someone working under a contract of employment.

The consultation asks:

  • whether employees or other interested parties (e.g. shareholders) might want to be able to compare gender pay information with that of other organisations, and how important comparability is;
  • whether the employer should have to publish the information in a prominent place on the organisation's website;
  • whether employers should also be required to produce a narrative under the regulations, or whether a narrative should be voluntary, with non-statutory guidance;
  • how often the information should be reported (annually, every 2 years, every 3 years or more); 
  • what an organisation's implementation costs might be; and
  • when the regulations should be brought into force.

Whilst the regulations are expected to be made in the first half of 2016, the Government is proposing that implementation should be delayed (possibly even in stages) to allow employers to prepare. At the moment neither the provision in the SBEE Act, nor s78 Equality Act 2010 (under which the regulations will need to be made) have yet been brought into force.

Compliance is likely to be monitored by a body such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and the Government is looking at civil enforcement options.

The consultation runs until 6 September 2015 and according to the Government, the results will be published "this winter".

Whether your organisation will be affected by the new legislation, or you simply want to ensure that it is in line with the law and engaging with the ongoing efforts to reduce the gender pay gap, our qualified experts have years of experience of helping employers with equal pay and discrimination cases and compliance. As we know how to defend cases, we know what you need to have in the first place, as well as involving the practical assistance of our HR consultancy service. With this wealth of experience, we can advise your organisation on its legal obligations, review your present arrangements and provide a qualifying equal pay audit. Please see the PDF below for further information, or contact:

South Coast: David G Miles, HR Consultant
Wales: Ian Jones, Senior Associate