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The gender pay gap and SMEs

Are you worried about how the gender pay gap affects your business? It's been a top issue in the media recently and companies with over 250+ employees are obliged to publish their gender pay information by April this year. SMEs will not be required to report so it may be tempting to ignore the issue, but we do not recommend that you do. Wendy at RecruitAbility has some advice on how small businesses can navigate the gender pay gap.  

If you own a small business you might want to consider publishing your gender pay information. Although the law does not currently require you to do so, laws change and extending the rules to cover businesses with fewer than 250 employees has already been discussed. If you have already tackled the issue you show your company to be ahead of the curve and an attractive employer committed to equality for all.  

Dealing with the gender pay gap does seem much harder for SMEs, which are more affected by the impact of parental leave and the costs of implementing flexible working. Yet small businesses may find it easier than they think. Although collecting data may be harder without the systems that larger companies have in place, this lack of bureaucracy works for small businesses and they are often able to make significant changes much more easily.  

The first step is to review who does what job and how much they earn at your company. Recording the data in a spreadsheet makes it easy to understand the information you collect. If there are any discrepancies investigate why that might be – do different roles require different skills or qualifications? Do they involve different levels of responsibility or decision making? If you can’t find any reasons then you may be in breach of discrimination law and should take immediate steps to address the problem.  

Go through your training and promotion opportunities and check whether these are open to both genders equally. Are your recruitment procedures equal and fair to women? Although companies must explicitly ban sex discrimination by law, unconscious bias can affect management and recruitment decisions. Providing training to your staff can mitigate the risks. Acas has some useful information about unconscious bias here.

Check your systems and procedures – having a strong grievance process in place and making sure your employees are fully aware of it will reassure your staff that you are taking the issue seriously. Seek external advice if appropriate.  Encourage diversity from the top down – look at the gender balance on your management team and think about whether you could make any changes.  

Finally, don’t forget about the men! Although most media focus in on equality for women make sure you offer equal opportunities in areas such as flexible working and parental leave to your male employees helps them to take a full role in family life and helps free women to take a more full role in the workplace.  

Taking steps to address the gender pay gap at your company puts you in a strong position should the government change the law. Being committed to equality boosts morale in the office, helps slow employee attrition and makes you a more attractive employer to quality candidates. Business in the Community has an excellent factsheet showing the business benefits of gender pay gap transparency here  - we think the standout fact from this is that research for the government’s Equality Office showed that “out of the employers who had publicly reported their gender pay gap not one found the experience negative.”   

Posted on Thursday Mar 8