Falling foul of new staff pay law could leave employers facing the music

The unveiling of Zoe Ball as the new host of BBC Radio 2’s Breakfast Show has turned up the volume of controversy surrounding a new employment law on staff pay.

Since April, all companies with more than 250 employees have been forced to publish average salary differences between male and female staff.

And the hiring of Ball to take over from outgoing presenter Chris Evans has thrust the new requirement – known as Gender Pay Gap reporting – back in the public spotlight.

It is claimed that one of the reasons Evans decided to quit after eight years at the helm was the fact that the BBC revealed details of his pay packet, along with other high-earners – said to be up to £2.2m a year at its peak.

Whether Ball will be paid the same reward sitting in the hot seat, for doing the same job, is already commanding intense press, public and political interest.

She currently receives an annual salary of up to £300,000, according to BBC figures. Whether this will increase to the levels that Evans took home with him are said to be extremely unlikely.

There are upwards of 9,000 organisations in the UK which, like the BBC, now have to comply with Gender Pay Gap reporting.

The new duty represents one of the biggest changes to employment law this year, affecting an estimated one-in-three of the Yorkshire workforce.

But it’s not just the size of any disparity that attracts attention – but also how employers explain the gap, and the reassurances they give about what action they are taking to close it.

So here at Milners, our employment law team’s advice to businesses is “to focus on the words as much as the numbers” when tackling these new demands, so any disparities can be clearly explained.

The legislation surrounding Gender Pay Gap reporting requires employers to publish the information on their own websites every year. It must remain accessible for at least three further years.

For some companies out-of-tune with the requirement, this could prove a legal minefield.

So it’s crucial that businesses get it right and steer clear of potential pitfalls.

You do not have to employ the likes of Zoe Ball or Chris Evans for the press, public and pressure groups to cast a forensic eye over the data and the window it now offers into staff pay.

Firms risk exposure to bad PR and damage to their reputation if they fail to seize the initiative – and don’t properly explain the reasons for the disparity.

Such a narrative is voluntary – but we would strongly encourage employers to include one on their website.

It provides an important opportunity to provide context for their data, explain any gender pay gaps, and offer reassurance about the actions being taken to narrow the gap.

Businesses that fail to publish an explanation, or choose not to do so, are particularly vulnerable to adverse comment or being “named and shamed” as it may appear that they have something to hide.

As well as mandatory publication of pay differentials on their own website, individual company data is also made public on a dedicated Government website.

• Should you have any questions or concerns regarding your Gender Pay Gap reporting requirements, then please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Employment Law team here at Milners on 0113 245 0852 or hello@milnerslaw

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