Only a minority of private sector employers have carried out an equal pay review despite more than a decade of campaigns designed to persuade firms to take this step voluntarily, an XpertHR survey shows.
The survey – based on responses from 129 organisations employing almost half a million people – reveals that fewer than one in three (32%) private-sector employers have carried out, or are in the process of carrying out, an equal pay audit or review compared with more than three quarters (77%) of public-sector organisations. The figure for the private sector was up on the 24% recorded in a 2008 XpertHR survey on equal pay audits, however.
Overall the findings show that:
• more than four employers in 10 (41%) (both public and private) had carried out, or were in the process of carrying out, an equal pay audit and the majority of these had done this more than once;
• more than one in three (35%) organisations say that they have plans to carry out a review in the future or have carried out some checks for equal pay; and
• one in four (24%) employers have no plans to do an equal pay review and have not carried out any checks for gender pay gaps at their organisation.
When those employers that had not undertaken an equal pay review were asked what change, if any, would lead to their organisation carrying one out, the most common responses were "equal pay claims against my organisation" (40%) and "none, my organisation would be unlikely to carry out an equal pay review under any circumstances" (30%). Despite this, more than four out of five (82%) of all employers agreed with the statement that: "Carrying out an equal pay review is a worthwhile exercise".
The main reasons cited for carrying out an equal pay audit were to be a good employer (77%), to avoid potential tribunal cases (57%) and to improve transparency (49%) while just one organisation cited the Government's Think, Act, Report campaign as a reason.
For those employers that did not plan to carry out an equal pay audit, the main reasons were that unequal pay was not perceived to be a problem (64%) and that the issue was not a priority for senior management (57%) or HR (40%) at their organisation.
On the issue of transparency around pay, findings showed that:
• Most employers that have done an equal pay audit are unwilling to publish what they find. Of the 53 employers carrying out a review, more than four in 10 (43%) said that no information was shared even with the employees whose pay and conditions came within the scope of the review. Just three organisations published the results of their equal pay audit externally.
• Just under half (47%) of employers agreed with the statement that: "My organisation is happy for employees to discuss their pay, terms and conditions with each other" but half (50%) disagreed and 3% were not sure.
The survey asked employers about a wide range of HR and pay practices related to the gender pay gap. Findings include:
• A large majority of employers (93%) have an equal opportunities policy and more than four in 10 (43%) employers have an equal pay policy;
• almost three-quarters (73%) of employers carry out workforce equality monitoring;
• just over six in ten (63%) said that there is part-time working in senior management roles in their organisation;
• a similar proportion (61%) report that their organisation offers maternity pay that is more generous than the statutory minimum; and
• more than half (53%) say that their organisation has policies to encourage women to return from maternity leave.
XpertHR HR Practice Editor Sarah Welfare, said: "This is the first major survey of employers on equal pay audits for some time. It shows that many firms continue to believe that the gender pay gap is simply not an issue at their organisation but have not checked their pay systems to make sure. More positively, carrying out an equal pay review looks to have become slightly more common in the private sector and is now standard HR practice in the public sector."