Gender pay reporting: lessons from the BBC

20 Jul 2017

According to figures released by the BBC, two-thirds of its stars earning more than £150,000 are male and the top seven earners within the organisation are also male. These figures have attracted a great deal of media and political attention, but what do you do if you are an employer releasing data that shows this type of potential pay gap?

Don’t panic: the gender pay gap reporting regulations do not require this type of data to be released

First, for most organisations, the type of data that the BBC has been required to provide will not be published.

The Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations require you to declare:

  • the mean and median pay
  • bonus gaps, together with
  • quartiling data.

The BBC was required to reveal information about its top stars under the terms of its new Royal Charter.

As such, for most organisations, the type of data that is being released is unlikely to be quite so controversial. Interestingly the BBC’s director general, Lord Hall, has suggested that their gender pay gap across the organisation is just 10%, which compares favourably with the national gender pay gap of 18%.

The latest media attention on the BBC’s data still provides a good reminder for firms preparing their Gender Pay Gap Reporting data.

1. Consider pre-publication communications to employees and other stakeholders

If your organisation already has diversity networks or other similar groups, engage with those groups prior to the publication of your information will be useful. This will enable you to understand the likely reaction of the wider employee population and also presents an opportunity for you to provide context for the figures. By way of example, within the financial services sector, the gender pay gap is estimated to be 39.5%, which is significantly higher than the national average. A financial services organisation with a gender pay gap in the region of 20% is therefore doing relatively well in comparison to the rest of the sector.

2. Ensure that there is clarity about what the figures show

The figures that are published under the Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulations will not necessarily highlight issues of equal pay. A significant gender pay gap is more likely to show a lack of female progression within an organisation.

This is where the BBC figures differ. These suggest that women doing similar jobs to men are being paid less. However, even that is not the end of the story. Some have suggested that it would be against the law to pay individuals differently if they are doing exactly the same job. However, the legal position is a little more complex. Where men and women are engaged in “like work” (which is essentially work which is the same or broadly similar) an employer can justify a difference in pay where there is a material factor causing that difference which is not connected to sex. For example, two individuals might be undertaking the same role but one might have a greater length of service or be more senior than the other, which could be a justification for the difference in pay.

3. Consider the narrative

In addition to publishing gender pay gap and gender bonus gap data, together with quartiling, organisations can also publish a narrative. You should carefully consider the information you may wish to include in this. In some cases it might be appropriate to seek to explain any significant disparities, in others, it might be preferable to focus on the positive initiatives that the organisation has in place to address the underlying issues causing the pay gap.

4. Internal communications

In addition to the narrative, consider what your internal communications strategy will be. Employees will be interested in the figures, so thought should be given as to what support will be given to managers to assist in answering queries on the gender pay gap figures and to what extent those should be directed to the HR team.

Above all, ensure that there is a strategy in place prior to publication.

There needs to be real thought about how to engage with employees and other stakeholders (including prospective employees) prior to publication of the data. In part the strategy adopted will depend on the nature of your organisation and the extent of the pay gap. the deadline for publication of data is 4 April 2018, so you will need to ensure you have given sufficient thought to your strategies prior to this.


More information

Working relations July 2017

The gender pay gap: what the figures don’t tell you (and what they do)

Mandatory gender pay gap reporting in a page

Remuneration Equality microsite

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