Will the BBC’s gender pay gap impact the future of the law?

Following the controversy around the BBC and who is paid what, the broadcaster is under increased public and legal scrutiny. Michelle Gray, head of employment at law firm, berg, discusses the expose and why SMEs should also take note of the increasingly important issue around gender pay reporting.

With the current wave in employment laws under the media spotlight, and female stars calling on the BBC to ‘sort the gender pay gap now’, it has never been more important for businesses of all sizes to address the issue. Whether you are due to start reporting or not, the obligation could extend to smaller businesses in the future and workforces will likely grow in size.

There are a number of lessons that SMEs can take from BBC’s report, in particular the confusion between gender pay gap reporting and equal pay. Equal pay refers to the difference between men and women’s pay for the same job, whereas the gender pay gap relates to the difference calculated between average earnings, irrespective of their roles in any given sector.

Whilst 34 of those on the BBC’s list are female, the report selects individual males and their female counterparts, underlining a disparity between equal pay in the corporation, rather than the gender gap pay.

It’s important that smaller businesses take time to understand the difference between the two measures when analysing their own data.

The broadcaster’s report has also drawn attention to the fundamental question of how gender is classified throughout the legal reports. While equal pay does not specifically refer to ‘men’ and ‘women’, gender pay reporting requires a clear outline of the pay differences between the two sexes. Since this law does not account for those of non-binary gender, the law may need to change to ensure non-discriminatory classification.

The BBC’s report is symptomatic of the flaws set by the current reporting laws, particularly in regards to gender fluidity. It’s important for SME’s to keep up to date with debates around the issue, since laws and requirements are liable to change during the early stages of legislation.

The media attention surrounding the BBC figures illustrates the confusion and sensitivities in the workplace when it comes to pay differences. As the matter continues to excite legal and public attention, it is important that organisations of all sizes take the necessary steps to educate themselves and employees on the legal and societal issues around gender and equal pay, as these debates continue to develop.

Diversity in the workplace has been shown to increase business performance and, in turn, profitability. With current laws being subject to change, fully addressing equality in the workplace will have clear benefits for all UK businesses.

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