More than 35 years after the United Kingdom's Equal Pay Act was introduced, recently released statistics show a 19.2 percent gap in average full time salaries between men and women.

Recently, Shared Parental Leave was introduced in the UK as one potential vehicle that might help narrow the gender pay gap.

In furtherance of its efforts to promote pay equality, the UK Government has published draft regulations that will compel all employers with more than 250 employees in the UK to publish details of their gender pay gap.

The first reports must be published by no later than April 2018, based on payroll data from April 2017.  Employers will need to report on five things: mean pay gap; median pay gap; mean bonus gap; the proportion of male and female employees receiving bonuses; and information on the number of male and female staff in four pay quartiles.  This information will need to be published on the corporate website and will also need to be uploaded to a Government site. 

With the limited information required, it is possible the statistics will paint a much gloomier picture than reality.  Therefore, companies should consider whether they want to provide additional statistics –for example, comparisons by individual job grades and not just global figures – to paint a more positive picture.  Caution should be exercised here, however, because the more detailed the information that is provided the greater the risk there is of arming employees with information that could be used against the employer in equal pay litigation.  In the UK, employees can pursue "like work" and "equal value work" claims seeking up to six years of back pay. 

With the above in mind, companies are encouraged to perform a "dry run" based on 2016 payroll data, under cover of legal privilege, with an eye to identifying at an early stage any potential weak spots and developing a plan to address them.

Colin Leckey