Organisations are legally required by the Equality Act 2010 to provide equal pay to both men and women if their duties and work they do is the same or broadly similar. Paying them a different rate because of their gender is unlawful. Regardless of this law, a pay gap still exists today.
In April 2017, the difference between earnings for full time male and female employees, calculated on a median hourly basis, was 9.1%. In order to attempt to address this, the government decided to introduce an obligation on organisations to publish data on the salary of male and female employees. Specifically, organisations will need to show what the gap is between male and female pay.
The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 took effect from 6 April 2017, requiring organisations to take a ‘snapshot’ of their gender pay data on 5 April 2017. Organisations will have a further 12 months in which to analyse and publish that data, by April 2018 at the latest. Data will then need to be published annually.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) decided to suspend enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for the reporting year of 2019/20. The decision meant there was no expectation on employers to report their data in 2020.
The government have since confirmed that reporting requirements are to return in 2021.
On 23 February 2021, the Equality and Human Rights Commission confirmed that whilst reporting would still go ahead in 2021, they would delay the enforcement of publications of the report for six months for both public and private organisations. This means that enforcement will commence on 5 October 2021 for 'all public, private and voluntary sector employers in scope'. Whilst this gives organisations an extra six months in which to publish their report, they are still encouraged to do so prior to October.
From 5 October onwards, the EHRC will begin contacting organisations who have not yet published their report. A resulting investigation could lead to unlimited fines after court action.
Following the publishing of the first gender pay gap reports in March and April 2018, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee have released a report recommending an increase in the number of organisations caught by the reporting requirement.
The Committee report, entitled Gender pay gap reporting, highlights that the UK has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe and organisations should commit to closing this. Their recommendations call for the government to improve clarity around the current regulations, consult on introducing additional pay gap reports and lower the qualifying threshold so organisations with 50 employees or more are caught by the reporting requirement.
More information on this report, and its recommendations, is available in the 'Future of gender pay gap reporting' in-depth section.