Gender pay (mis)reporting – what does Chris Evans’ pay tell us about the gender pay gap?

The answer to the above question is absolutely nothing, however the BBC’s recent publication of what it pays to its highest paid earners has prompted probably the most intense debate ever about the difference between pay for men and women.  The story is being reported under headlines about the ‘gender pay gap’ but it is important to be clear as to what this actually is.

The BBC has reported a gender pay gap of 10%.  The gender pay gap is the difference between average male earnings and average female earnings.  The BBC’s figure compares to an ONS figure from 2016 of 18% across employers as a whole.  What might have been spun as a positive about how the BBC was ahead of the norm (if it got any attention at all), has instead been taken over by the separate issue of an equal pay gap, being the difference between what men and women earn for doing the same role (or a role which is different but nevertheless assessed as being of equal value).  It is the publication of who is earning £150,000 or more that has given rise to the scrutiny and challenge.

This blog does not intend to wade in on the rights and wrongs of the differential between what Gary Lineker vs Clare Balding or Fiona Bruce vs Huw Edwards are paid, but rather to remind employers of their duties under the Gender Pay Regulations.

All organisations with 250 or more employees as at 5 April 2017 have to publish certain gender pay information by 5 April 2018.  Here’s a link to our previous commentary on the requirements and a link to our more detailed briefing on gender pay reporting.  The obligation to publish the earnings of all individuals being paid £150,000 or more is something specific to the BBC’s Charter. It is not part of an employer’s gender pay obligations.

A gender pay gap does not necessarily mean that there is an equal pay issue.  A gender pay gap may arise from the fact that more females are working in lower paid roles and more males in higher paid roles.  A male cleaner and a female cleaner may be paid exactly the same but if there are more female cleaners than male, and more male Executives than female (even if they are also paid the same salary as each other) then there will be a difference between average male and female earnings.

The statutory obligation is to publish the bare statistics with no requirement to explain them.  What we can take from the BBC story is that even though the furore is not actually about the gender pay gap, the fact that it is being reported as such will lead more employees to look at the gender pay figures which their own employers report.  The wrong conclusions may then be reached as to what the data actually shows.  So explanation and a commentary will be key and work needs to be done now to identify the underlying causes.  In some cases, there may well be societal gender bias which has contributed to the figures for example the stereotype and/or flexibility of cleaning work meaning that more women undertake it and/or the impact of maternity leave on career progression into Executive roles.  There is no legal obligation to try and remedy a gender pay gap but employers would be well-advised to see if there is anything that they can do to try and equalise the differential within their organisation.

For further information please contact Kirsty Thompson or your usual contact in the Devonshires Employment and Pensions Team.

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