New legislation is coming into place regarding the publishing of employee salaries, in a bid to highlight the gender pay gap. In an age where companies and individuals are striving for equality in the workplace, this is a contentious and sensitive issue. While the gender pay gap is gradually closing – it’s currently at its lowest reported rate of 9.4% – it still exists and will not be fully closed for a number of years.

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The government legislation coming into place will force private and voluntary organisations with over 250 employees to publish their pay scales and the amount of men and women that fit into each scale, to highlight where the gaps in salaries are widest. While some feel this is a personal ‘name and shame’ attack on the reported 8000 UK businesses set to be affected, others recognise that this could be a useful technique to encourage companies to assess the best ways of closing the gap and giving female employees the recognition and progression opportunities that they deserve.

Although the changes won’t come into force until 2017, there will be some backdating, meaning that employers will need to publish data from as far back as April 2016. For this reason, it is important that companies, and their HR teams in particular, are aware of the changes and what is required from them.

At this stage, HR teams need to ensure that they are collecting the relevant data for the relevant employees, including for those in apprenticeship schemes. It could also be worthwhile to analyse historic data as a ‘test run’, to see what your results are likely to be and if you are able to meet the requirements requested by the new legislation. This may also flag up any trends within the company or reveal facts such as gender profile and working hours of staff that may offer some further insight into why gender pay gaps exist within your organisation.

Looking forward, the new legislation will come into play in early 2017 and at this time companies will be required to publish information regarding the gender pay gaps in their firms. By April 2017, calculations should be taking place to determine the results of this information and by the following April (2018), the final results must be published on the company’s website and on the government’s reporting website.

These results must be published on time and in a way that is easily accessible to the public. Although not required by law, experts recommend that a written narrative explaining the results could be prudent. This may help the public understand the reasons for significant gender pay gaps within any one company or conversely (if the results are more favorable), it could be an opportunity for the company to highlight its dedication to closing the gender pay gap.

If the results show a large gap then company’s should draw up an action plan of how they can personally tackle this issue and keep moving towards the ultimate goal of gender equality in the workplace.

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