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Employers who supplied ‘dodgy’ gender pay data face action by EHRC

12 Jul 2018 By Emily Burt

‘Limited resources’ could leave organisations slipping through the net, experts warn

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is this week writing to roughly 20 employers over their gender pay gap figures, People Management can reveal, as scrutiny persists over “dodgy data”.

More than 10,000 organisations with 250 or more employees submitted gender pay data by the April 2018 deadline, but independent statistician Nigel Marriott recently estimated that between 9 per cent and 17 per cent of gender pay gap data is wrong. 

Now organisations that filed questionable figures are being asked to correct or justify their data, or risk being taken to court where they could face unlimited fines. 

People Management understands the EHRC had already contacted 16 other organisations who it suspected had misreported on their data, and would continue to target those who had misrepresented the numbers. 

“We have identified a number of organisations who have submitted potentially inaccurate figures and have already written to some of the most suspect, giving them the opportunity to correct or explain them,” an EHRC spokesperson added. 

“If we are not satisfied with their responses we will investigate and are prepared to take them to court. Gender pay gap reporting is a legal requirement and we are wholly committed to ensuring all organisations abide by the law.” 

Commenting on the numbers, head of pay and reward at the CIPD Charles Cotton said it was unlikely the commission would be given special powers to enforce the process, but that the majority of organisations would likely comply with the process before being forced to supply details of their calculations in court. 

“Ultimately organisations can end up being fined, so hopefully when looking at the costs involved they will realise it is cheaper to report their gender pay gaps than go through the courts, as well as managing the potential negative publicity that could be generated among employees, clients and investors,” he said. 

However, he added the process was still not as sophisticated as it could be, with few measures in place to verify data supplied by organisations. 

“The EHRC has limited resources, so I would imagine they are looking at figures that feel ‘odd,’ such as median pay gaps of 0 per cent,” he said. 

“Organisations that filed, for example, a mean pay gap of 16 per cent and a median of 11 per cent without doing the maths could easily have slipped under the radar.” 

Cotton added: “Unless the EHRC are going to start looking at organisations on a sector by sector or reason by reason basis, there is scope for organisations who want a quiet life to produce a figure that would not attract much attention.” 

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, also called on the government to simplify the process of identifying non-compliant organisations. 

“We are glad to see the EHRC taking this forward, but the government must make the process quicker and simpler, and companies who haven’t published any data need to be pursued urgently,” she said. 

“Employers need to take evidence-based action now, committing a budget to it where needed, to close their gaps. All women deserve to see that happen.” 

As the BBC yesterday released details of its highest paid stars, with the top 12 spots held by men, a survey of more than 1,000 UK employers from Willis Towers Watson revealed more than half (58 per cent) are now taking steps to tackle their gender pay gaps. 

More than half of employers (51 per cent) said they had recently checked their pay arrangements to ensure they are meeting equal pay obligations and almost a third (29 per cent) are planning to do so. Nine out of 10 (93 per cent) employers had additionally taken steps to promote flexible working arrangements, or were considering the possibility. 

“The gender pay gap reporting requirements raised lots of questions for employees and in boardrooms,” said Tamsin Sridhara, UK leader of rewards and talent at Willis Towers Watson. “As a result, we are seeing leading UK employers committed to doing more and leading the way for global peers.”

Employers will file their 2018 gender pay reports on 4 April 2019. 

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