May 16, 2020

Gender pay gap reporting: why you should see it as an opportunity

Gender pay gap
Rachel Mapleston
5 min
Gender pay gap and how to deal with it
With just over a month until the gender pay gap (GPG) reporting deadline, less than 15% of eligible organisations have published their results, with som...

With just over a month until the gender pay gap (GPG) reporting deadline, less than 15% of eligible organisations have published their results, with some experts predicting that a sizeable proportion will fail to make the early-April cut-off.

No doubt many employers view GPG reporting as an administrative headache – a box-ticking exercise, and potentially damaging too. And with no financial sanctions for non-compliance, some organisations may even be questioning whether it’s worth the hassle.

But that misses the point. The purpose of GPG reporting is not to single out employers for public ridicule, but to better understand the differences between the average pay of men and women in the UK, and to then consider new ways of bringing parity to working practices. With this in mind, organisations should see the process as an opportunity, not a burden.

A chance for change

The reporting process is an opportunity to gain valuable insights into your organisation’s pay structure and culture. The vast majority of employers likely see themselves as forward-thinking when it comes to embracing and supporting equal opportunities for men and women, but due to deeply ingrained assumptions around gender roles and expectations, pay gaps persist.

The reporting process helps organisations shine a light on their gender pay practices, and from that comes an opportunity to effect positive change.

Creating a narrative

In addition to publishing a gender pay gap, you have the opportunity to give context to your results by providing a narrative – a written statement explaining why their gap exists. There are numerous likely causes of a pay gap, both internal and external, and these will differ from sector to sector.

This is also an opportunity to explain the steps you have taken or will take to address the gap – something your employees and customers will no doubt take a keen interest in. Although preparing a narrative is optional, it is strongly recommended that organisations take the opportunity to contextualise and explain their results, especially if their gender pay gap is larger than average.

Take the example of EasyJet, who last year revealed a whopping gap of 51.7%, meaning the average hourly rate for women is 51.7% lower than for men company-wide. On face value, such a huge gap looks indefensible, but with the benefit of context we see that it reflects a wider issue in the aviation industry, where high-paying pilot jobs are dominated by men and lower-paying cabin crew positions are predominantly held by women.

Rather than being the fault of one airline, this reflects the deeply entrenched culture and stereotypes in the airline industry. Through its narrative, EasyJet was able to explain this – as well as the fact that it has an equal pay policy, meaning all pilots are paid the same amount, as are all cabin crew staff, regardless of gender. It was also able to outline the steps it intends to take to close the gap, such as setting a target that 20% of its new pilots will be female by 2020.  

Without a narrative, we are left only with a number – often strikingly large – with no way to unravel the many contributing factors. As a result, organisations that publish their gender pay gap results without a supporting narrative risk a more negative response.

And remember: the process of explaining the reasons behind your pay gap and the measures you are taking to address it is not just for the public, it’s also a chance for your organisation to better understand its own practices and seek new ways to modernise its culture.

To publish or not to publish?

Given that there are no financial penalties outlined in the Gender Pay Reporting Regulation (GPGR) for non-compliance, some organisations might be tempted not to publish their GPG at all. After all, isn’t it better to avoid public scrutiny?

The answer, of course, is no.

Although no fines will be levied under the GPGR, failure to publish data could result in the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) investigating non-compliant employers. The EHRC will work alongside the Gender Equalities Office (GEO) to monitor employers that fail to publish their GPG by the April deadline, seeking first to engage them informally through a reminder notice. If an employer then fails to acknowledge the reminder within 14 days of receipt, or then fails to publish their GPG report within 42 days of receipt, the EHRC will open a formal investigation, which could ultimately result in financial penalties.

While the EHRC may also take action in the case of inaccurate GPG data, it’s focus will be on pursuing organisations that fail to publish their results.

From a reputational perspective, not publishing your GPG is likely to be far more damaging than publishing it. GPG reporting is overwhelmingly seen as a positive step in the right direction, and any employers seemingly unwilling to get on board will be viewed as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Opting against reporting looks like you have something to hide, and is likely to upset employees and customers alike. While reputational damage is hard to quantify, organisations will be no doubt be wary of anything that affects their brand image and upsets their customer base.

Assuming that employers honour their obligation to provide equal pay for equal work, as enshrined in the Equality Act 2010, there will be no legal action or financial penalties for reporting a GPG gap. However, if companies are found to have an unexplainable gap in pay between men and women, their public reputation will be tarnished and they will find it difficult to attract and retain staff.

Turning a negative in to a positive

Organisations that want to turn their gender pay gap into an opportunity to make positive changes should use the reporting process to develop a clear strategy for addressing the particular issues that have led to that gap.

The role of HR software

Gender pay gap reporting may seem a daunting task, but HR software can make the process much easier, while ensuring that your data is accurate and complete. Set yourself up with a reliable software provider, and make sure you fully understand the gender pay gap functionality available.

Rachel Mapleston is a Business Analyst at MHR.

Share article

Jul 29, 2021

Environment Agency clamps down on plastic films and wraps

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Environment Agency aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported

Businesses in the waste and construction industries must ensure they deal with waste plastic properly to stop illegal exports, the Environment Agency (EA) has warned. 

The warning comes as the Agency is increasingly aware of plastic film and wrap from the construction and demolition sector being illegally exported. 

Exports are frequently being classified as ‘green list’ waste of low risk to the environment, but are often contaminated with materials such as mud, sand, bricks and woodposing a risk to the environment and human health overseas, and undermining legitimate businesses in the UK seeking to recover such waste properly.

During the last year, the EA has intercepted shipments to prevent the illegal export of this material on numerous occasions. The Agency inspected 1,889 containers at English ports and stopped 463 being illegally exported. This, combined with regulatory intervention upstream at sites, prevented the illegal export of nearly 23,000 tonnes of waste.

Those convicted of illegally exporting waste face an unlimited fine and a two-year jail sentence. But construction firms could also face enforcement action if contaminated construction and demolition waste plastic is illegally exported.

Malcolm Lythgo, Head of Waste Regulation at the Environment Agency, said it is seeing a marked increase in the number of highly contaminated plastic film and wrap shipments from the construction and demolition industry being stopped by officers.

“I would strongly urge businesses to observe their legal responsibility to ensure waste is processed appropriately, so we can protect human health and the environment now and for future generations. It’s not enough just to give your waste to someone else - even a registered carrier. You need to know where your waste will ultimately end up to know it’s been handled properly. We want to work constructively with those in the construction and waste sectors so they can operate compliantly, but we will not hesitate to clamp down on those who show disregard for the environment and the law.”

There are a number of simple, practical steps that businesses can take to ensure that C&D site waste is handled legally.

Construction businesses should check what’s in their waste

  • Different waste types need different treatments and so must be correctly categorised to ensure it goes to a site that is authorised to handle it safely. Businesses can also check if their waste is hazardous as different rules might apply.
  • If you are removing the waste yourself, you must be a registered waste carrier- registration can be carried out here. When a waste collector is transporting your site waste, you must check they have a waste carrier’s licence from the EA.
  • You must also check that the end destination site any waste is taken to is permitted to accept it and has the right authorisations in place. Keep a record of any waste that leaves your site by completing a waste transfer note or a consignment note for hazardous waste which record what and how much waste you have handed over and where it is going.

Waste management industry must adhere to export controls

  • Contaminated C&D waste plastic - including low-density polyethylene (LDPE) wrap and film - must be exported with prior consent from the EA as well as competent authorities in transit and destination countries.
  • Those involved in the export of such waste must ensure that it meets the requirements set under the relevant export controls, such as being almost free-from contamination; the destination sites are appropriately licensed to receive and treat the waste; and waste is correctly managed once received.

The EA will continue to actively target those who export contaminated C&D plastic waste illegally, including any accredited packaging exporters who issue Packaging Waste Export Recovery Notes (PERNs) against such material in breach of their Conditions of Accreditation.

Businesses involved in the shipment of waste are required to take all necessary steps to ensure the waste they ship is managed in an environmentally sound manner throughout its shipment and during its recycling.

Anyone with information regarding the illegal export of waste including C&D waste plastics can contact the EA’s Illegal Waste Exports team at: [email protected] or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via their website 

Share article