Five ways to reduce your gender pay gap

13 Aug 2018 By Gillian Maclellan and Val Dougan

Following the recent release of government guidance on reducing the gender pay gap, Gillian Maclellan and Val Dougan provide their own top tips for HR professionals

Now that the first cycle of gender pay gap reports has been published, attention will inevitably shift to the content of the year 2 figures – and crucially, whether the figure will have reduced. 

Many organisations published plans setting out their gender pay gap actions, ranging from unconscious bias training to reviewing promotional structures. Here are some other ways the gap can be reduced:

Do what you say

While this might sound obvious, ensure that steps you publicly committed to taking actually happen. Having one senior person who is the sponsor or lead and who is accountable should help ensure delivery. If your year 2 GPG figure does not reduce, you will still be able to refer to the amount of activity undertaken – and explain that this plan of action will take time to bear fruit.

Assess the impact of pay increases and bonus awards

Ensure that someone carries out a gender impact assessment before your annual salary and bonus payments are confirmed. Ideally, employers want to avoid paying an annual bonus in April as 1/12th of this is then included in the hourly rate figure. In effect, this is a form of double-counting as bonus payments are also reported in the bonus pay gap. While recent academic research discredits the myth of the ‘reticent female’ where women are not confident in asking for a pay rise, the same report (Do Women Ask?) showed that men are 25 per cent more likely to actually get a pay increase when they ask for it.

Review gender balance at all levels

Most employers have explained that their pay gap is (at least partly) based on gender imbalance at different levels of the organisation, particularly the impact of relatively few women at senior level. However, because we are dealing with the law of averages, employees must look at all levels in their organisation. Where you have disproportionate numbers of one gender, taking steps to recruit more of the other gender can have a significant impact on your figures.

Encourage flexible and part-time working among male staff

This might seem controversial, but for most organisations the prevalence of predominantly female part-time workers has not only had an indirect impact on the pay gap but also has a significant influence on the bonus gap. If this issue is addressed and promoted as part of a wider strategy to support employees with their work-life balance, then not only will the individual men (and indeed your organisation) benefit but it will impact on your pay gap figure too.

Carry out a pay audit

Consider carrying out an analysis of how you pay men and women for comparable work. This type of investigation can vary in size and scale from a full equal pay audit with external consultants to a lighter touch exercise involving a grade-level analysis of pay based on gender. Typically, no employer deliberately sets out to pay different rates of pay to men and women doing comparable work. Yet through time, ringfencing, lateral hires and various other factors, differences can arise. Looking at these differences through a legal lens, the question is whether they can be justified according to a material factor defence under the equal pay provisions or whether corrective action is needed.

Carrying out an audit can not only identify and help address pay disparities, it can also assist in the defence of an equal pay claim. Equally, if you are unionised the act of carrying out the audit in the first place may of itself reduce the risk of claims being brought.

Gillian Maclellan is an employment partner and Val Dougan a professional support lawyer at CMS

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