On the 6 April 2017, gender pay data became mandatory for all companies with 250+ employees, it is no longer something that can be ignored.

So far, 41 companies have uploaded their data to the Government website. The first was a window and blind company that you’ve probably never heard of, kudos goes to them. As we explore in our blog on the BBC’s recent gender pay tables – this is more than just compliance – this is about securing your reputation.

From 2018 onwards, gender pay data will be gathered and reported annually. The Conservative Manifesto, suggests there is political will to take the data collection a stage further in the long term. Most likely a band-by-band pay audit.

Like all good brownies – our advice is to be prepared. In our blog on the state of gender pay disparity we gave EasyJet props for making positive news out of bad stats, and this time around it’s Schroders turn. Both EasyJet and Schroders have spoken openly about the gap, explained the causes (mainly not having enough women in senior positions), honed their narrative and announced their strategy to fix it.

Perfecting this narrative is something that all companies can aim for, whether you have good or bad data. In the first year particularly, good intentions will count. The Chair of Baker Mckenzie, Paul Rawlinson, did just this, giving a heartfelt speech at the launch of the UN Women’s new “Champions of Global Equal Pay Coalition”, on the 10 May. He said:

“Notably this issue is not going to be solved overnight, but we want to be part of the solution. I have a young daughter and it’s my hope that by the time she enters workplace, the gender pay gap will no longer exist.”

If you’re concerned about your daughter’s pay, then point her in the direction of the Times’ article, advising women on how to ask for a pay rise. It’s widely believed that, in part, the disparity in gender pay is due to the lack of confidence women have to face their boss and tell them they would like more money for what they do. So when your boss tells you ‘well done’, take my mum’s advice and respond “don’t clap, throw money”! Some employers have resorted to banning negotiations altogether to mitigate this.

It looks as though millennials may have already got this message. New data from the Resolution Foundation shows that the gender pay gap has shrunk for women in their 20s, but crucially it still widens to 33% for women in their 30s. Is there some huge disconnect between those who grew up listening to New Kids On The Block, Take That, or One Direction? Of course not, and that shows you prime suspect number 2 – that women disproportionately pay a ‘parenting penalty’ at work. But the reasons for the gender pay gap are complex and subtle, this really isn’t about silver bullets or getting outraged about one colleague being under paid in comparison to a male peer (that’s been illegal since the 70s folks). 

Of course, we all leave homework until the last minute, right? But, it’s the same group of us who recognise we could have got a better mark if we had more time to work out our answers. That’s why being the teacher’s pet and getting on top of this narrative has never been more important. Next year’s assignment will be harder and in years to come it could get even more complicated.

The Conservative Manifesto also set out the intention to ‘ask’ companies to reveal their BAME pay gap (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic). Yes, at present it is an ‘ask’, but – as with gender pay reporting – eventually it is likely to become a requirement. BAME gap data could be even more damaging to reputation than gender pay disparity. People appease their concerns about gender by pushing motherhood and the desire to work part time as a justification. There really is no smiling, false justification for a pay disparity based on skin colour. You can’t manage what you don’t measure. We should all champion any moves that shed light on the experience of BAME workers - who happen to also be women and face double the difficulty.

There is plenty of guidance for HR professionals on how to calculate the gender pay gap numbers, but very little on what they might mean for corporate reputation.

We have been working with a number of clients in preparation for April 2018. Atlas can help you interpret the figures for your organisation, explain what factors contribute to your pay gap, and showcase what you are doing to reduce it. We can run a bespoke pay gap focussed narrative development workshop and weave equality into your long-term communications strategy.