As the deadline for companies to submit their gender pay gap data fast approaches (March 30 for public bodies and April 4 for private companies), reports that there are fundamental issues with the reporting system are beginning to emerge. Submitting these pay gap figures isn't just an act of good will, it's required by law. However, as the Guardian reports, Labour’s minister for women and equalities, Dawn Butler, has said that the inaccurate figures and lack of sanctions "makes a mockery" of the entire system.
The Guardian has conducted an in-depth analysis of companies' submissions, and their findings are raising some serious concerns. The newspaper reports that a whole load of the mathematically impossible gender pay gap data that was filed by companies last year remains uncorrected, and yet "the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) admitted that, despite those errors, no companies have yet been fined for failing to comply with legislation."
Speaking to the Guardian, Butler said she feels people are not taking the system seriously. "Gender pay gap reporting was meant to provide transparency, but the fact that companies have given inaccurate data and faced no sanctions makes a mockery of the whole system," the Labour politician said.
So, what is all this data I hear you ask? It is, rightly so, a legal requirement for private companies, public sector departments, and charities who have 250 or more employees to publish their gender pay gap.
Chief Executive of The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Rebecca Hilsenrath spoke previously to the BBC about how important it is for companies to comply in order to tackle the problem of the gender pay gap. "We believe that it should be mandatory for employers to publish, alongside their pay gap data, action plans with specific targets and deadlines," she said.
When she responded to the figures found by the Guardian, she emphasised that they would be absolutely going head on against any companies who are not being transparent. "We have mechanisms in place to identify questionable data, and have the power to enforce against any employer whose published information doesn't comply with the legal requirements," Hilsenrath said.
So what happens to companies that don't comply with accurate data requirements, or in fact — just don't bother at all? Well, they are supposed to be fined, but the powers that be have admitted they have not been fining guilty parties. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have admitted that despite the glaring issues with data, they have yet to collect any coin.
There are more than a few issues here to consider. Clearly, filing false data should be punishable. Without consequences, this is a toothless policy. Perhaps another part of the problem is that with these large companies, penalties and fines aren't a huge issue for them to deal with. Nor is having an unfair gender pay gap, as the lack of consequences attests to. Hopefully, with time, not only will companies feel the heat from the powers that be, but they will also actually want to make changes — changes that will lead to a more equal and fair working environment.