The deadline for UK businesses with over 250 employees to publish their figures on gender pay has now passed.

Many employers have taken the opportunity to provide a narrative with their calculations, explaining the reasons for their results. The calculations that businesses are required to undertake do not take into account the gender split in different roles within the business. As a result, many employers have explained that it is not the case that men and women are paid differently for doing the same job (which would be an equal pay issue), rather that there are more men or women are typically employed at a certain pay grade.

How have employers explained their Gender Pay Gap?

The majority of businesses have reported that they pay the average woman less than the average man. There have however been some surprising results, such as Ford announcing that they have a negative Gender Pay Gap, meaning that on average they pay women more.

The theme from a number of reports is that employers have provided an explanation to clarify that their Gender Pay Gap is not caused by unequal pay.

For example:

If a Gender Pay Gap can be explained, why is it a problem?

An explanation for a Gender Pay Gap does help an employer to paint their figures in a better light, but you do not have to look further than Twitter to find some seemingly plausible explanations criticised.

The Gender Pay Gap reporting requirements are the first step in raising awareness. Businesses have recognised of their own accord why a gender pay gap exists within their organisation. The next challenge is going beyond the obvious explanation that 'most pilots are men' or that 'less women are engineers' or even that 'there are less women in senior roles' and looking at what can be done to change that.

Even where employers are committed to providing equal opportunities, there is a historical and cultural tendency for women to be more involved in childcare, which is more likely to lead to them working part time or having less flexibility in working longer hours due to family commitments.

It is going to take more than reporting on the Gender Pay Gap to achieve diversity in the workplace and truly equal opportunities for men and women across all levels of a business.

Opportunities for improving gender diversity: what can employers do now?

Employers should consider what they can do now to ensure there are equal opportunities for men and women, both within different roles and in terms of progression.

Key points to consider:

  • Put an action plan in place to demonstrate your commitment to diversity across all levels of the business.
  • Ensure there are no barriers to success - can women reach senior positions, or do certain policies (e.g. lack of flexible working opportunities) prevent them from doing so?
  • Can you introduce new policies which help to facilitate gender diversity?
  • Consider how you can create a culture which is open to diversity and progression.