Gender pay gap: multiple firms submit questionable data

With just days until deadline some have entered zero in all fields or claimed mathematically impossible gaps

Plastic models of a man and woman standing on a pile of coins and bank notes

As well as gender pay gaps, companies must also reveal the proportion of men and women in each quartile of their business.
Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

The equalities watchdog has insisted it will pursue companies that submit inaccurate figures on their gender pay gaps after multiple firms appeared to file questionable information.

Public sector employers with more than 250 staff are legally obliged to publish their gender pay gap by Friday, while private firms and charities have until Wednesday 4 April. About 7,000 of a estimated total of 9,000 organisations had filed results by Thursday.

But with just days to go until the final deadline, questions have been raised about the quality of some of the data being filed, some companies having entered zeros in all fields, reported mathematically impossible bonus gaps and removed key workers.

Alongside the hourly wage figure, companies must disclose their bonus pay gap and reveal the proportion of men and women in each quartile of their business. Companies must give both their mean and median gender pay gap.

Quick guide

Gender pay gap reporting

What is being published?

All companies and some public sector bodies in Great Britain, except Northern Ireland, with more than 250 employees are reporting their gender pay gap to the Government Equalities Office. All companies are due to report by 4 April 2018.

What is the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average hourly earnings of men and women. The figure is expressed as a proportion of men’s earnings. According to the ONS, the gap between what UK male and female workers earn – based on median hourly earnings for all workers in 2017 – stood at 18.4%, up 18.2% from a year earlier. The mean gender pay gap is 17.4%.

What’s the difference between the mean and the median figures?

Commonly known as the average, the mean is calculated by adding up the wages of all employees and dividing that figure by the number of employees. The mean gender pay gap is the difference between mean male pay and mean female pay.

The median gap is the difference between the employee in the middle of the range of male wages and the employee in the middle of the range of female wages. Typically the median is the more representative figure, because the mean can be skewed by a handful of highly paid employees.

At 2pm on Thursday at least 13 companies had filed suspect figures on the Government Equalities Office website, stating they had no mean or median gender pay gap and an equal split of male and female workers in every quartile.

Several companies contacted by the Guardian who filed figures of zero in all areas of the government website said they had not yet filed their official figures or said the figures had been entered in error. Others could not be contacted, or declined to comment.

“I think calling the data variable is a fair comment,” said Mark Crail, content director at XpertHR. “And it’s pretty obviously that some people have got it wrong, or at least very unlikely. Others seem to have put in figures as holding positions that will be updated. There is certainly enough of that for it to be a worry.”

In one case figures for three different companies were filed by the same HR manager with the exact same figures, with no gender pay gap and an equal divide of men and women throughout the company. It is a legal requirement that company information is signed off at director level.

Other companies have filed mathematically impossible figures – at least 17 have reported a bonus gap of more than 100%. One company reported an hourly mean gender pay gap of 106.4%, implying that for every £100 earned by a man a woman would “pay” £6.40. A spokesperson at the company declined to comment.

Following the 4 April deadline the EHRC, the equalities watchdog responsible for enforcing the gender pay gap regulations, has the power to write to companies that have filed questionable statistics and demand clarification.

“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,” said EHRC’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath.

A number of companies have also resubmitted their figures. Hugo Boss changed its gender pay gap figures three times at the end of 2017 after questions were raised about the plausibility of the figures by the Financial Times.

Companies had been given a year and detailed guidance from Acas on how to calculate and submit data, said a gender pay gap expert, Helene Reardon-Bond, a former senior civil servant who played a key role in shaping the requirement.

“There is absolutely no excuse to get it wrong, because the calculations are all there,” she said. “This does matter because it is not fair on the companies who file accurately – it’s a matter of competitiveness.”

Some companies have also been accused of not being fully transparent about their gender pay gap, while sticking to the letter of the law. After filing initial figures PwC published its revised pay gap data to include partners, as did EY and Deloitte. But only one of the top five law firms, Clifford Chance, has included the pay of partners, who tend to be better paid and disproportionately male.

Businesses have also used press releases to divert attention from the full extent of the gap, making it impossible to rely on the non-statutory figures. Slaughter & May reported a gender pay gap of 39% in its services division. However in a press release it noted that gap was greatly reduced if it excluded the secretaries, all of whom are women, from its figures.

Others questioned the viability of the data. Julian Jessop, chief economist at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said looking at the percentage of men and women in each quartile of the business – especially the number of women at the top and the bottom – could be a more useful exercise than comparing hourly gender pay gaps.

“Clearly there is still plenty of discrimination in the workforce, but the pay gap being revealed is not necessarily revealing that. It’s a pretty crude way to get to that conclusion,” he said.

Go to Source