The deadline for large employers to publish their gender pay gap information is fast approaching (4 April private sector, 30 March public sector). More than 80% of those employers expected to do so are due to report in the coming month.

Some of those employers who have already reported have found themselves the target of unfavourable media attention which is potentially damaging to their reputations. There have also been media reports to suggest that female staff working in organisations with a large gender pay gap have been left demoralised and in some cases looking for work elsewhere. So, how can employers best manage the human fall-out of gender pay gap reporting?

Be honest with staff

Be honest with your staff - warn them in advance that your gender pay gap data is going to be filed and do your best to anticipate and deal with any concerns they are likely to have. If you are reporting a large gender pay gap, or a large bonus gap, give a full and frank explanation of the underlying causes. More importantly, explain what you intend to do about those causes so that your gender pay gap can be reduced over time. Ideally, get some of your staff involved in forming an action plan for taking steps designed to reduce the gender pay gap.

Explain the difference between a gender pay gap and equal pay

One common misconception is that a large gender pay gap necessarily means that male and female employees are paid unequally. In reality, the gender pay gap and equal pay are two entirely different things. It is perfectly possible to pay male and female staff 100% equally for the same jobs, yet still report a large gender or bonus pay gap. Explaining this to your employees can go a long way to reassuring female employees that they are not paid less than their male comparators for the same work.

Don’t try to restrict staff discussing their pay

A little known provision in the Equality Act 2010 (section 77) means that:

  • pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts are unenforceable
  • employers cannot prevent workers from discussing their pay with other colleagues (including former colleagues) if the disclosure is made, or sought, in order to find out whether or not there is a connection between pay and a protected characteristic (e.g. sex)
  • seeking, making and receiving a relevant pay disclosure are all protected acts. Therefore, it is unlawful to victimise a staff member for those acts

All of this means that employers should be very wary of trying to restrict or discourage staff from discussing their pay amongst themselves.

Deal with any grievances promptly and appropriately

You may receive grievances from staff who consider it likely that they are being paid unequally to their male comparator colleagues. Any such complaints should be dealt with promptly and appropriately in accordance with your grievance procedure and equal opportunities policy.