Gender pay is making headlines, but why now? From 6 April 2017 employers in the UK with 250 or more employees are required to publish figures on their own website and a dedicated government website, showing the pay gap between their male and female employees.
Around a dozen property firms have reported their gender pay statistics so far. This number is likely to increase as we approach the deadline and attention may turn to those employers who have not yet published. Historically, the property industry has been male dominated and continues to be so, especially among higher earners, which may contribute to a large gender pay gap. While this does not necessarily mean there is pay discrimination, property firms should review the context behind any pay discrepancies to enable them to explain their data within their report.
The deadline for the first of what will be yearly figures is to be reported by 4 April 2018. Some of the recent scrutiny in the press has no doubt been a result of figures being published that show a significant discrepancy in pay between men and women. However, it is important to note that a pay gap is not synonymous with pay discrimination.
Gender pay is often confused with equal pay. Whilst the legal right to equal pay and the concept of the gender pay gap both deal with the disparity of pay between sexes in the workplace, they are two separate issues. The gender pay gap is a measure of the difference between the average earnings of men and women across an organisation. Equal pay is the legal right for men and women in the same employment, performing equal work, to receive the same pay. Unequal pay, unless justified, is unlawful. We consider the difference in more detail here.
Employers must publish averages in terms of both hourly pay and bonuses for men and women in their organisation. They must also show what proportion of male and female employees receive a bonus, and how many men and women are in each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.
There are no specific legal consequences of not reporting gender pay figures, although reporting can be enforced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission. The main fall out of failing to report is likely to be reputational. Given that gender pay data is publicly available, employers may face as much criticism for not reporting by the deadline, as for reporting a gap far above the national average.
Employers are encouraged to publish a narrative to explain their gender pay figures, or to put the results in to context. So far, approximately 900 organisations have published their gender pay figures. Although there are around 4.9 million businesses in the UK, a vast majority are not in scope for reporting as they employ less than 250 people. However, it is estimated that around 9,000 companies are in scope and are therefore obliged to report on gender pay.
The UK's largest listed property company, Land Securities Group Plc (Landsec), published its gender pay statistics at the end of 2017. Landsec reported a median gender pay gap of more than 36%, compared to a national average of 18%. Women were reported to have received bonuses that were 62.5% lower than those received by men, although women were almost as likely as men to receive some sort of bonus. Both Grosvenor and Lendlease have reported fairly similar pay gap figures.
In their narrative, Landsec said:
At first glance, the figures would suggest a significant pay gap between males and females here at Landsec. However we are satisfied that the issue is one of female representation in higher-paying roles, rather than of equal pay for equivalent roles.
As Landsec has highlighted, the under-representation of women in the industry, particularly at senior levels, is a key driver of the gender pay gap, as it is in other industries. However, by taking action to tackle the underlying reasons for the gap, employers may be able to improve pay disparity as well as increase gender diversity to benefit both employees and the business.
The requirement for employers to publish their gender pay gap relates to transparency as well as equality. It encourages organisations to be aware of their own gender pay gap by considering, and if necessary addressing; recruitment, pay, promotion family-friendly and flexible working policies, so that the gap can be reduced in future.