Industry experts look at the gender pay gap - and if disclosure should apply to smaller companies

gender equality

“Large employers (those with 250+ staff), will soon have to publish information about the pay of male and female staff, including details about bonuses. Whether smaller firms should follow suit, well, the devil (as always) is in the detail. Too general or vague information may not move us much further and won’t really establish whether staff are being paid the same amounts for the same work. Also, we need to ensure small firms are not tied up in vast amounts of red tape. The biggest difference small firms can make would be to encourage more female senior appointments and the sharing of family-related leave (under the new shared parental leave rules). This would be far better.” Sarah Burke, employment specialist solicitor, Thomas Eggar LLP

“As with any regulation, this is about getting the balance right – accountability versus red tape. Extending gender pay gap reporting would be too onerous for most SMEs, who are unlikely to have the resources necessary to report at the level required. SMEs are normally good at keeping a watchful eye on their business and often excel in employing diverse workforces. Large employers are better positioned to absorb the challenges of the new regulation, and will be able to deal with any issues that arise. The pay gap of an employer with 50,000 people, and the initiatives put in place to eliminate it, will be of far more practical and statistical significance than that of an organisation employing only 100.” Denise Keating, CEO, the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion

“There are problems with the under 250-staff bracket. Most firms will actually have fewer than 10 staff – something that will make statistical comparisons difficult. Second, gender pay gaps are problematic in small firms as employers’ informal approach to management makes them more likely to agree to flexible working in exchange for low pay. So, this needs careful handling. As a first step, medium-sized firms, with say 50 employees, are more likely to have comparable jobs and HR functions to cope with the process, so perhaps the reporting bar might be set at 50? In an ideal world, women should not have to negotiate for equal pay for themselves, but we’re not there yet.” Professor Nigel Culkin, co-president, Institute of Small Business & Entrepreneurship