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Employment law

The impact of data on the gender pay gap

We explore how data has helped expose issues in organisations' gender pay gaps and the actions women can take if they are facing an equal pay dispute with their employer.

04 May 2021

Research conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimated that women wouldn’t receive equal pay until 2059. To help move this forward, the EU is pushing for large firms to report on their gender pay gap by calculating the average difference between hourly wages for men and women.

How has gender pay reporting impacted the gap?

UK legislation on pay gap reporting

UK Gender Pay Gap Regulations came into force in April 2017, requiring organisations with 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gap data each year. Those who don’t comply before or on the deadline face punishable actions with an unlimited fine and are publicly outed by the Equality and Human Right Commission when facing investigation.

Transparency of data

Once the required data is submitted to the government website, the report is automatically published and accessible to the public. Any interested person can search and compare gender pay gap data to review organisations’ figures and comments on their results. The government also makes viewers aware if the report was filed after the deadline.

Organisations must also publish their pay gap data on their websites in an accessible and digestible manner and ensure this data remains on their website for at least three years.

Gender pay gap UK statistics and impact

The Office for National Statistics reported that in 2020 the gender pay gap among all employees was 15.5%, down from 17.4% in 2019. The gap remains prominent for older full-time employees at 10%, with high earners experiencing a much larger difference in hourly pay between the sexes.

In 2020, T Class Security LTD reported the highest gender pay gap, followed by Mint Pay Solutions. Other high profile organisations which have repeatedly appeared in the data for having the highest gaps include HSBC, Rush Hair and T.Class Security Limited. Many companies remain under scrutiny since the figures became public in 2017.

A study by Cornell University found that transparency of this data lowered the gender pay gap with results showing that male wages increased by less and female wages slightly increased, contributing to an overall decline following the change in the law.

Usually taking place in March or April, the 2021 deadline for employers to publish their gender pay report has been extended until 5 October due to the pandemic, meaning enforcement action against those organisations who fail to submit this year’s report is delayed. The Fawcett Society has voiced concerns over the delay, stating that policies generated from the pandemic, such as furlough and home-schooling, have already shown to have a negative impact on women at work.

What to do if you’re being paid less than a male counterpart?

Is this against the law?

The gender pay gap and equal pay aren’t the same. Unequal pay occurs when a woman is paid less than a man for doing the same job (or work of equal value), which is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010. On the other hand, the ‘gender pay gap’ is broadly speaking the difference in mean and median hourly earnings and bonuses between women and men.

Government data on gender pay gap reporting can be a good indicator as to how your employer performs in this area, although this is a review of the business as a whole rather than your particular role.

How can you source equal pay information?

The gender pay gap data can be a starting point but may not provide much help because the pay and bonus information is given in percentages, not in figures, the categories in which employees are split can be difficult to identify and they only apply to employers with 250+ employees.

It’s firstly recommended that you try to identify a male counterpart in the same or similar role who is being paid more or receiving better terms of employment, such as working hours or holiday pay. You can ask colleagues or your employer, though they’re not obliged to disclose this information.

You may wish to serve a questionnaire on your employer to find out this data although employers are no longer obliged to answer.

You may also be able to gather information by issuing proceedings and seeking disclosure.

If a discrepancy is discovered, ask your employer what reasons they have for this and if disputed by your employer, offer an explanation as to why your role is equal. There are certain terms under which counterparts of the opposite sex may be paid more, such as higher qualifications, cost of living in their location and shift patterns. If one of these legitimate reasons is provided, your employer may be able to defend the claim. If pay inequality is found to be based on the employee's gender, you may consider trying to resolve the issue internally with a direct manager or HR department before issuing proceedings.

What if further action is required?

Before raising a formal complaint, it’s advisable to seek legal advice. Our experts will advise on what information will be of particular importance when putting forward your equal pay case, and can help you navigate through the process.

If the dispute is not resolved through a grievance, you may wish to make a claim in the employment tribunal for breach of the Equality Act. As specialists in employment law, we’re here to offer support and help simplify what can be a complex procedure. If you think you’re facing unequal pay in your role, speak to one of our experts today by calling us on 0330 041 5869 or contact us online.

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