How To

How to mind the gap – gender pay gap reporting

by Sally Ellson |

Organisations such as the BBC, Channel 4, HSBC and easyJet have all been hitting the headlines for their gender pay gap reporting, as the media delivers its verdict this week on big business and its attitude to women.

From today, 6th April 2018, the law has changed and employers in the UK with more than 250 members of staff are required to annually publish gender pay and bonus data. This Government reporting requirement has been perceived by many as an easy win for journalists and the public looking to name and shame businesses. It’s also sparked a national debate on the way women are viewed in business, how they view themselves, and how, given the general accepted attitude to equality, it is still an issue.

But as communications specialists, we know that the picture is much more complicated than this. It’s a narrative that is difficult to navigate, with multiple stakeholders and numerous explanations behind the pay gap findings as well as a variety of approaches on how to close the gap.

First and foremost, the story is actually about employees, so for once, internal communications specialists have had an opportunity to step up to the boardroom table and support the company with vital professional advice and expertise.

So, what is the best way to communicate the gender pay gap to an internal audience?  Here are our top three suggestions:

  • It is vital is to present employees with an open and honest status of each organisation’s pay gap
  • The style of reporting needs to be accessible and tell a story – not hide behind complex messaging
  • Rather than viewing the report as just another legal requirement it is an opportunity to drive employee engagement, develop an action plan and demonstrate the positive impact this will make to the wider workforce

We experienced this challenge at spottydog when we were briefed by Mitchells & Butlers to help write and design their employee gender pay gap report.  The goal was to ensure it made the complex simple and gave their 40,000 employees real transparency.  Our approach included using uncomplicated pay gap explainers alongside infographics to engage employees and build knowledge and understanding.  Initial feedback has been positive, it has promoted transparency and helped demystify the topic for the organisation.

With the internal house in order, the report then launches into the public domain, and it becomes the role of PR professionals to deal with any challenges the results might generate and be prepared for the media and stakeholder scrutiny and comparisons.  So, what you need to consider as part of your external comms strategy?

  • The numbers alone are not enough, you need to provide a commentary to give context
  • Defining action plans to narrow the gap are important to demonstrate ownership, and foster trust in the business
  • Have some case studies of examples of real situations to use to bring the content to life

Finally remember whatever your comms approach is, this is not a tick box exercise. As PR professionals, it’s our job as the conscience of the organisations that we represent, to continue to revisit the gender pay gap themes and ensure it remains high on the board agenda. Company commitments are now published for all to see, so could present a reputational risk if they become an empty promise both internally and externally.

This time next year, we’ll see who has a narrative to share as the new reporting wave begins.