TB: The Gender Pay Gap and Equal Pay are hot topics in the media, so does everyone really understand it?
KH: In a word no, and it’s infuriating listening to some of the media talk about them as if they’re the same thing.
The Gender Pay Gap compares average pay for all men and women across all types of jobs, at all levels of an organisation. Essentially, it’s about representation, and asks a broad question of why, on average, women earn less than men.
Equal Pay is far narrower. It makes it unlawful to pay men and women differently for carrying out the same or similar job, or a job of equal value.
Generally, Gender Pay Gaps exist because of the types of jobs that men and women perform and how those jobs are paid. There is typically a higher Gender Pay Gap in occupations or roles where women are underrepresented, such as more senior levels, or in male dominated occupations like engineering and sales.
TB: Why did the Government introduce Gender Pay reporting and what’s the legal position?
KH: The UK has a persistently high Gender Pay Gap, so regulation was introduced to help close it. But more fundamentally it’s to drive true gender equality in the workplace so women have the same opportunities as men to fulfil their potential. It’s about making the most of the skills, experience and talents of everyone, which in turn will benefit the economy.
The latest government numbers show that the pay gap between men and women, on average, is still 18.1%. This is something we all need to address.
Although there isn’t a legislative requirement for businesses to close to their Gender Pay Gap, there is a requirement for them to report the data publicly. The Government hope publicity around these reports will create a self-governing mechanism, as responsible organisations will have to answer to both their employees and the wider public.
And this isn’t a one-time exercise. Their long-term aim is to get companies addressing the underlying causes of their Gender Pay Gap so they are able to demonstrate a year on year trend towards closing it.
TB: Is this a significant time burden for companies?
KH: Virgin Media was supportive of publishing its Gender Pay Gap, and we took an active role in participating in the consultation on the Government’s white paper.
We started work on our analysis in 2016 so we had sufficient time to test our methodology and could work with the business on creating an action plan on the steps needed to create greater gender equality.
There were the usual challenges in extracting data from multiple sources and systems. We underestimated how long it would take to pull the data from various systems, then consolidate it on an individual employee basis. This was our biggest challenge taking several months to capture and validate, and then carry out the necessary calculations.
The time required to manage this process effectively, not just as a data exercise but also to communicate it clearly, will be a concern for smaller organisations who don’t have the resource available to do this, particularly as the April 4 deadline looms. At the time of writing, thousands of companies still need to publish their reports.
TB: Did you get any surprises from the data?
KH: There were no surprises. Virgin Media has a large number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based roles, and similar to STEM roles across the UK, these are mostly filled by men.
These roles attract higher pay and allowances than the roles which the majority of our female employees perform.
TB: What feedback have you had?
KH: We’ve had fantastic feedback on our report from both our HR and industry colleagues, and from our employees.