Ruth Buchanan: How have employers prepared for the second gender pay report?

There is less than a month to go before the 4 April 2019 deadline for employers to publish their gender pay gap data for the second time. They should be more confident about the mechanics of producing the figures this time around; nevertheless, the regulations are complex. Indeed, many will have reviewed their methodologies to iron out practical difficulties encountered last year.

Attention this year has turned to comparisons with last year’s figures, and whether there has been progress in closing the gender pay gap.

While employers would, of course, like to show improvement, this may not always be possible. A large bonus or share award, often granted historically, which has vested during the year may make a like-for-like comparison difficult, as could a significant change in staff numbers during the year. This can be frustrating, but the key here is communication. Employers should make sure they use the narrative accompanying the data to tell the full story.

The principal reason for a gender pay gap is the lack of women in senior roles. Last year, many employers included in their narrative statements a series of steps to rectify that. These obviously will take time to yield results, so it would not be surprising if these measures have minimal impact on the gender pay gap this year.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has recognised that some effective measures may, in fact, result in a temporary widening of the gap. Nevertheless, employers should show commitment to their strategy in the narrative statement and report on any progress. Specific targets are better than general aspirations.

5 April 2019 is, of course, the next snapshot date for gender pay gap reporting, and employers should already be thinking about year three of the reporting process.

Ruth Buchanan is partner at law firm Ashurst