Taking a proactive approach to new equal pay laws

If I could give one piece of advice to any business over the next 12 months it would be this: review your pay structure and conduct an equal pay audit.

Jonathan-HoldenBy Jonathan Holden, partner and head of employment, Forbes.

From April 2017, businesses with more than 250 employees will be obliged to begin publishing information about gender pay gap reporting. We await the fine detail on this; but I believe it is the ideal trigger for businesses to take a look at their pay structures, regardless of size.

Over the previous decade, a huge number of substantial and costly equal pay cases have gone through in the public sector. It is only logical that attention will now turn to the private sector. Don’t get me wrong, it is rare for employers to pay people differently based on their sex – but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. What tends to happen is that differences creep in; often as a result of market factors, incremental pay increases, bonuses; or even just the well intentioned exception to the normal rule.

Now is the time to conduct an audit of the pay structures and policies to assess any potential liability and to address that liability and/or differential as soon as possible. Gender pay gap reporting, and associated press coverage will raise awareness of potential equal pay claims; and anecdotally, the team at Forbes have certainly seen a significant increase in the number of enquiries in this area over the last 12 months.

Thankfully, we have significant experience of these matters and are well placed to provide proactive advice. Experience tells us that identifying any issues at an early stage, and a proactive approach, helps to provide businesses with certainty; and the ability to forward plan. The last thing any business needs is litigation – so act now to prevent this.