Poll: 43% believe financial penalties will help to close the gender pay gap

Gender pay gap

Employee Benefits poll: Two-fifths (43%) of employer respondents believe that financial penalties would help to close the gender pay gap.

A poll of www.employeebenefits.co.uk readers, which received 54 responses, also found that a similar proportion of respondents (41%) do not feel that financial penalties would be an effective way of tackling the gender pay gap. A further 17% of respondents are unsure whether or not financial penalties would help.

The spotlight on the gender pay gap intensified in July 2017 with the publication of the BBC’s pay disclosure report for individuals paid more than £150,000 from BBC licence fee revenue in 2016-2017, which the organisation is required to publish under the terms of the Royal Charter. Chris Evans was the highest-paid male on-air talent, earning between £2,200,000 and £2,249,999. The highest-paid female on-air talent, Claudia Winkleman, received £450,000-£499,999.

Tony Hall, director general at the BBC, has committed to achieving a 50-50 split of men and women in lead presenting roles by 2020.

The disclosure report prompted 44 female BBC employees to write an open letter to Hall, calling for immediate action to be taken.

The BBC is now holding wider consultation meetings with staff to accelerate change and close the gender pay gap at the organisation, which is estimated to be 10%.

The high-profile nature of the organisation and the stars included in the report, as well as the omission of others, led to significant media attention. However, all organisations with 250 or more employees will need to report their gender pay gap and bonus pay gap data by 2018.

Under the government’s gender pay gap reporting regulations, public sector organisations must fulfil their reporting obligations by 31 March 2018, and private sector businesses and charities must report their data by 5 April 2018.

Some organisations, such as Deloitte, the Department for Education, PricewaterhouseCoopers, TSB, and Virgin Money, have raced ahead of the curve and already published their data, along with information about the measures they are taking to close the gender pay gap.

A full list of the organisations that have already reported can be found on the government’s online gender pay gap viewing service, with data available both here and on organisations’ websites for all to see. In 2018, the government intends to publish gender pay gap league tables by sector to highlight the best and worst performers.

It may be that a combination of organisational will and reputational risk mitigates the need for financial penalties. Or perhaps compliance with the new reporting regulations is burden enough for businesses at present? As can be seen from our poll, respondents remain split on the merits of financial penalties. It will be interesting to see whether this changes as the reporting requirements bed in.

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Read more about the lessons employers can learn from the BBC pay gap in our Big Question feature, with responses from Duncan Brown, Patrick Woodman, and Suzanne Horne.