Employment lawyer warns Cheshire businesses ahead of gender pay deadline

March 28, 2018

A leading employment lawyer in Warrington is warning the region’s businesses of possible significant consequences for missing the gender pay gap reporting deadline.

Companies with more than 250 staff must report information about the differences between what their male and female employees earn. 

The 4 April deadline for private sector employers is just days away and Latham Parry, partner and head of employment law at Watsons Solicitors, believes organisations could face intervention by The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) as part of a crackdown on gender inequality in the workplace.

Latham is also keen to alert employers that negative or misinterpreted stats could lead to reputational damage and possible discrimination claims.

He said: “This topic has already received a lot of coverage, and will, quite rightly, continue to do so. There appears to be an inequality in the workplace and this is a vital step to addressing that.

“I expect a fairly robust response from the government, which could be similar to the approach already taken to name and shame employers who do not pay the minimum wage.

“There are a number of risks for employers in Cheshire.

“Firstly, missing the deadline could lead to an investigation by EHRC, possibly an unlawful act notice being issued and, if that is not complied with, potentially a conviction and a large fine.

“Secondly, any negative results could damage the firm’s reputation. This can lead to concerns from stakeholders, including current and prospective customers, politicians, and employees, as well as impact future recruitment campaigns.

“Finally, inadequate communication around the data could lead to people misinterpreting the figures. If there is a gap, it might not be an indication of an employer doing anything wrong.”

Follow Latham’s tips below about the gender pay gap:

  1. Keep your number of staff under review. Employee numbers can fluctuate, which means businesses could find they trigger the requirement to report information on the gender pay gap.
  2. Assign suitable people internally to be responsible for collating the data, analysing it, and signing it off. I would recommend involving someone from HR and payroll, who know the company’s workforce structure and data systems, as well as a senior person to assume overall responsibility.
  3. If there is a gap, be proactive and progressive about how you will tackle the gender pay inequality in your company. Use this as an opportunity to generate some good publicity.
  4. Provide a narrative to put the figures into context. Just because there is a gap, it does not necessarily mean a company has acted inappropriately. Statistics can sometimes be misleading. As well as putting the data into context, a narrative also allows you to share what measures you have put in place and other positive news such as how the gap has shrunk over time.
  5. Employers can also consider carrying out an independent equal pay audit on an informal basis. This can be used to identify potential discrimination arising from unequal pay for equal work. The EHRC has produced an equal pay audit toolkit to help employers.
  6. Review your equality policy, and speak to an employment law firm if you don’t have one.

Latham has more than a decade of experience in employment law and joined Watsons as a partner in 2015.

If you have any queries regarding the gender pay gap, please speak to our employment team on 01925 571 212.

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