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Is another suspension of gender pay gap reporting a good thing?

Since 2017 any employers with a headcount of 250 employees or more must report and publish information about their gender pay gap. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission suspended enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting deadlines for 2019-20 in March last year.

Intended to be a one-off to help businesses deal with the fall out of the pandemic, On 14 December 2020, the GEO published new guidance giving step by step instructions on how to make each of the required gender pay gap calculations, so it looked like it was all systems go for the 20-21 reports

However, in the last few days, the Government has cast doubt on whether it will be requiring gender pay gap reporting to go ahead this year.

In a BBC news report on Tuesday 9 February, Gillian Keegan MP, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, confirmed that while it would be “encouraging” employers to continue filing their gender pay gap reports, enforcement for not submitting forms is now unlikely. On the same day, The Guardian quoted the Government as saying that gender pay gap reporting is “under review” again.

So it looks like another 11th-hour reprieve for businesses having to submit their gender pay reports, but should businesses really be breathing a sigh of relief?

It’s been widely reported that the pandemic is having a disproportionate effect on women; if you’re one for awkwardly shoe-horning words together, then you might be joining in with calling it a ‘shecession’.  Another year of no mandatory gender pay gap reporting is another year of many companies not acknowledging the reality of their gender pay gap and not taking steps to address it. It’s another year of companies not being held accountable, just when women might need it most.

The Women and Equalities Committee recently released a report on the economic impact coronavirus has had on women, finding that the Government’s policies in response to the pandemic overlooked the inequalities women faced in the labour market and when it came to caring responsibilities. It found that for many women, existing equality problems had only got worse.

The picture is the same further afield. A survey carried out in North America found that one in four women were thinking about reducing or leaving paid work due to the pandemic, citing company inflexibility, caring responsibilities and stress. The survey highlighted the gender gap for parents; while 8% of surveyed mothers had thought about going from full- to part-time work, only 2% of fathers had. Globally, women’s job losses due to Covid-19 are 1.8 times greater than men’s.

Gender disparity is a complex issue, and not one that will be resolved through gender pay gap reporting alone. However, preparing a gender pay gap report, with a narrative and an action plan to tackle the gap, helps businesses identify disparities within their organisation and target their resources more efficiently. It shows your workforce that you are committed to supporting them and tackling inequality, which boosts morale and helps retain your employees. It could also help to recruit staff, with a recent survey showing that employees of all genders seek out more socially-conscious employment.

We are starting to encourage businesses to look to the future and how life might look once we get some semblance of normality back. Undoubtedly, gender equality should be on the agenda of any sustainable business.

Don’t hesitate to contact us at legal@lexleyton.co.uk for a free consultation to understand your gender pay gap reporting obligations better or discuss how we can help develop your strategies to an equal and diverse culture fit for the future.

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