Gender Pay Gap – does Business need a BBC reality check?
The publication by the BBC of the salaries earned by its presenters has highlighted the long running debate about the gender pay gap.
The tabloids’ take on the results is to emphasise the apparent revolt by the female presenters upon learning that only one woman is amongst the corporation’s nine highest earners, and women only account for a third of those in the top pay grade. Headlines have been dramatic, with the Daily Mail reporting “Mutiny!” and the Mirror declaring the BBC to be the “Bloated Blokes Club”. However the world of entertainment operates on a different level to that of most ordinary businesses and any discrepancy in salaries of most male and female employees is unlikely to be as extreme as the difference between Chris Evans (£2.2m) and Sophie Raworth (£150,00).
Employers should also note that the gender pay gap is not the same as the equal pay issue, which means that an organisation that pays men and women equally at each level can still have a gender pay gap if women are under-represented at high levels.
Under regulations that came into force on 6 April 2017, all private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees must publish the following information by 5 April 2018:
- Overall gender pay gap figures for relevant employees.
- The proportion of men and women in each of four pay bands, based on the employer’s overall pay range.
- Information on the employer’s gender bonus gap.
- The proportion of male and female employees who received a bonus over a 12 month period.
- A written statement, signed by an appropriate senior individual, confirming that the published gender pay gap information is accurate.
Although it is not mandatory to include a commentary on the results, employers have the option to clarify the reasons for any pay gaps and whether any action is proposed to address them. It is probably a good idea for employers to provide some reasoning behind any significant inequality in pay, to avoid or reduce the risk of incorrect assumptions and damage to reputation. Comparing pay is not straightforward and is often dependent upon several variables so if a gap is genuinely justified then it would be wise to explain why.
Impact on Businesses
Based upon current statistics (the Office for National Statistics suggests that the national median pay gap is 18.1%) it seems likely that most businesses will show a gender pay gap. If it emerges that there is a significant disparity, then this could lead to accusations of gender bias and possibly threats of tribunal proceedings. Taking the BBC as an example, more than 40 female broadcasters have written an open letter to Tony Hall, the BBC director general, urging him to “correct the disparity” and to extend the review to producers, engineers and support workers at both regional and national level. This has led to speculation in the press that they may launch a class action for discrimination if their concerns are not addressed. Mr Hall has responded to assure them that “work is well underway” to close the gap by 2020, which may include reducing the salary of male presenters. Businesses and employees will be monitoring what happens next with interest.
In terms of future recruitment, pay and promotion practices, employers should consider making improvements in order to avoid negative publicity and to attract female applicants who may be discouraged by apparent inequality in salary and prospects.
It will be interesting to see what emerges as a result of the reporting obligations and whether such transparency will have a positive impact by encouraging employers to advance gender equality in the workplace. Employers could view this as an opportunity for positive publicity and to set an example by being progressive and fair, which in turn may lead to an advantage over their competitors.