What do the gender gap reporting rules mean for businesses in the region?

The gender pay gap. Joe Giddens/PA Wire

The gender pay gap. Joe Giddens/PA Wire - Credit: PA

As the government publishes its final draft of the regulations for calculating the country's gender pay gap, Lauren Cope takes a look at what they are - and what it means for businesses.

• What are the regulations?

Last year, former prime minister David Cameron unveiled plans to force companies employing more than 250 staff to reveal the gap between the average pay of male and female staff.

As things stand, on average a woman earns about 80p for every £1 earned by a man.

Original draft rules - under the Equality Act 2010 - were outlined, and the government has now published the final draft regulations which clarify how it - subject to parliamentary approval - will be calculated.

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• What will it involve?

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Businesses will be asked to rank their employees' salaries, divide the results into quartiles and work out averages for men and women.

It will be displayed in the form of a snapshot of April 5 next year, with firms then given until April 4, 2018, to publish the results on their website, where it must stay for three years.

• So what has changed?

Well the snapshot date has been brought forward from April 30 to April 5.

It has also been confirmed that maternity, sick and annual leave pay will not be included, along with partners' salaries.

• How has it been received?

On the whole, businesses say they agree with the principle of improving equality.

But concerns over the accuracy have been raised - with many saying that headline figures may distort complexities of different job types, roles and aspirations.

Abigail Trencher, a partner in law firm Birketts' employment team, warned the rules were unlikely to create the transparency needed.

'This legislation does not have any teeth,' she said. 'Whatever is published won't be audited, so it is relying on businesses and organisations to properly collect the figures.'

She said it may be possible for an employee to use the figures to launch an equal pay claim, but said the information would not be 'sophisticated enough to assess real disparity'.

'Unless you have one man and one woman in a quartile, it will not be very precise.'

She said that the regulations will 'show what we already know' - more men in top quartiles and woman in lower ones.

'Usually women deal with child care, meaning men can rise to the top of organisations easier,' she said. 'The hope is that organisations will see the figures and want to encourage more women into top roles but they will face well-established problems of care arrangements and aspirations.'

• What should businesses do?

Carla Gowing, employment solicitor at Norwich firm Hatch Brenner, advised businesses to be proactive.

'Unfortunately, with many it is likely to be a reactive approach rather than proactive,' she said, 'but businesses will need to think about how they are going to collect this data - how long will it take? What software will be needed?

'And for those nearing the 250 mark, starting to collating that information ahead of time is wise.'

• What do you think of the changes? Write to EDP letters, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email edpletters@archant.co.uk giving your full name, address and contact details.

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