By Rhian Radia, Partner, Hodge Jones & Allen LLP,
The scores are in but what is behind the numbers and how might companies be impacted?
The first point to note is that the statistics do not in themselves provide a way in for a woman to argue that she is paid less than a man. Certainly, on the face of it the gender pay gap in some companies does not make happy reading. For example, at Wellington Management a woman’s median hourly rate is 44.7% lower than for a man and her median bonus rate is 84.6% lower.
But will the statistics really translate into companies seeing more claims for sex discrimination and unequal pay?
Maybe not for PR agencies where the gender pay gap did not need to be reported as the requirement only applied to companies with a minimum of 250 employees. 99% of private sector employers are SMEs and yet the debate about the gender pay gap is not so loud there as any gap did not need to be published.
Perhaps most importantly, there are no £ signs here. The gender pay gap statistics do not contain salary details at all and only provide percentages reflecting pay throughout an organisation from top to bottom. It is totally different to the BBC pay information published last year where it was clear to see that you were not on the list of stated levels of earnings in £50,000 increments from £150,000. At least then, you could see if you were on the list at all, who was above and below you and how women fared compared to men.
What the gender pay gap has done though is to open the conversation. People are now talking with energy about why the gender pay gap exists in a way that they were not before. The causes are inspiring heated debates around many a dinner table and it is an interesting discussion to be having as much of the gender pay gap remains unexplained after obvious things like part-time working and fewer women in senior roles have been covered. Arguably old attitudes and habits die hard and linger.
So, does this chatter mean that the statistics themselves could inspire Employment Tribunal claims? Yes, possibly if employees show determination to get to the bottom of the murky grey area that is pay. It is open to employees just to ask their employer for pay information. Employment Tribunals can be persuaded to draw inferences from an employer’s caginess and refusal to answer questions about pay. Tribunals can also order that pay information is provided at an early stage in a case and may be more willing to do so going forward now that the gap is a hot topic.
Perhaps over time the rather British attitude of pay secrecy will become less of the thing anyway as pay statistics continue to be published year on year.
Interesting times ahead.
Rhian Radia is head of the employment team at London law firm, Hodge Jones & Allen. She acts for both employers and employees on a full range of employment matters. She offers free employment law training and HR health checks for companies.
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