GPG reporting – what UK needs to do

The Fawcett Society and the Kings’ College Global Institute for Women’s Leadership have just published an interesting report comparing the UK to nine other countries in the practice of gender pay gap reporting. My impression has been that the legislation requiring companies with over 250 employees to produce a range of data on GPG was a big step forwards. I still think that; for one thing it’s enabled people like ShareAction‘s AGM activists to ask probing questions of corporate behaviour – and their intentions for the future. Pushing the Paula Principle I’ve been able to put questions about career trajectories, as well as just pay gaps.

There are some quite serious weaknesses which emerge clearly once the British legislation is set alongside comparable laws of other countries. One was already well known: there is no obligation on employers to say anything on what they intend to do as a result of the information. Only the Austrians are like us in not requiring an action plan to be produced. Many companies do produce plans, but there is no requirement and that weakens the impact of the legislation.

A plan is only valuable if it actually leads to some change in behaviour. But the fact that the information has to be produced on an annual basis means that progress can be regularly checked, and made public. This is where ShareAction and other activists come in. The environmental movement has alerted people to the impact that even small investors can make if they get their act together.

Two other results from the Fawcett/GIWL report are notable. On the negative side the UK exclusion of organisations with less than 250 employees allows many to escape the net (the limit is just 10 in Sweden). On the positive, UK companies do show very high levels of reporting – they are an obedient lot when it comes to providing the information. it’s the move to action that is needed.

Covid has set back progress on the proper valuation of women’s competences. Better GPG reporting can make a serious contribution to offsetting this.

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