"I'm scared about our gender pay gap"

How should we handle the release of our figures?

Our gender pay gap is likely to be about 20 per cent. It’s less than others in the sector (financial services) and we have introduced pay grading in recent years, which means we are confident no one is paid differently for the same role. I think we are doing a lot to close the gap and address issues; for example, a returnship scheme helping women back into work. But we have a lot of vocal female managers who are asking questions and they have built the release of the figure up into an ‘event’. I fear it could be a comms disaster and our PR team has already said the internal messaging is an HR matter. Should I play it down or confront the issue head on?

It’s disappointing that your comms team has stepped away from the frontline, since what you tell employees on this issue really needs to be aligned with your external messages. Your gender pay gap is being published and disclosed publicly and some employees may see this news before they hear from you, so it needs to be consistent.

Many businesses are grappling with reporting their pay gap – and if they’re not, they soon will be. The key is not so much the figure you put out there but your ability to demonstrate what steps you are taking to address any imbalances. I recommend a Q&A event for starters, where you can discuss issues raised by employees, preceded perhaps by conversations with managers so they can deal with questions that arise in their teams.

Keep your door open if anyone wants to speak to you and, most of all, don’t sweep the issue under the carpet. No business is expected to end its gender pay gap overnight but, if you can demonstrate that you acknowledge the issue and are addressing it, I don’t think you will have an angry mob heading for the HR department any time soon.