About to publish your gender pay gap? This is what you need to remember

Since the introduction of mandatory gender pay gap reporting last year, there has been a sea-change amongst employers and their approach to gender equality. Kaammini Chanrai, Gender Research and Policy Manager, Business in the Community, discusses the implications.

Over 10,000 employers reported their gender pay gap in 2018. The compliance rate for gender pay gap reporting was 100%1. This is an incredible achievement and we hope that organisations are as engaged this reporting cycle coming up in a few weeks.

The media attention and scrutiny was fierce. Median and mean figures hit the headlines and The Guardian even did a live blog on deadline day, drawing further attention to what was already such a significant news story from the year. This also emphasised how important it is for companies to have a strong narrative, and communicate it well. Those organisations which were transparent about their limitations shone brighter than those who simply blamed women for their pay gap.
This is, of course, humbling. As someone who has spent a significant amount of time and energy advising organisations to implement strategies and initiatives to support women, I am overjoyed by the impact of this legislation. Gender equality was already a priority for some organisations, which invested thought and resource and placed equality as a business imperative. For others, this forced them to address this issue when it had never previously been discussed within the walls of their business. A true feat, and one that I am grateful for.
However, it has not all been sunshine and rainbows. Research from the Equality and Human Rights Commission2 found that only one in five employers had published a plan outlining how they were going to tackle their gender pay gap. Publishing the gender pay gap figures is only a gesture without an action plan. And an action plan is only a proposal without real action. 
In addition, there is still a lot we have to do around myth-busting. The gender pay gap continues to be confused with unequal pay, which explains the pay differences between two individuals or a group of workers carrying out the same or comparable work. Unequal pay is illegal and has been since 1970. YouGov research3 found that only 30% of Brits chose the right definition of the term ‘gender pay gap’. This confusion is often perpetuated by the media, and the misunderstanding amongst employees means that organisations have more of a responsibility to clarify this.
We must not lose momentum. Whilst gender pay gap reporting is in the public eye, we must ensure we capitalise on the attention. But we must also ensure we are going about it the right way. The gender pay gap figures are only one form of measurement to determine gender inequality at work and reporting alone cannot solve workplace inequalities, even if they do give a useful entry into a conversation that is yet to be had in some businesses across the UK.
Further resources
Business in the Community’s Gender Equality Campaign have released five brand new toolkits to support organisations on gender pay gap reporting – four of which are exclusive to Gender Equality partners. These resources are there to support organisations at any point during their journey to achieving gender equality, from the early stages of trying to understand the reasons behind the figures, to developing an action plan to tackle the gender pay gap.

1 Equality and Human Rights Commission (2018), Gender pay gap: our enforcement action, available at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/pay-gaps/gender-pay-gap-our-enfor...
2 Equality and Human Rights Commission (2018), Closing the gender pay gap, available at https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/publication-download/closing-the-...
3 YouGov (2018) Most Brits have the wrong idea of what the gender pay gap is, available at https://yougov.co.uk/topics/economy/articles-reports/2018/09/14/most-bri...