• Insights

Gender pay gap reporting: UK announces six-month deadline extension

United Kingdom
Written by
Lewis Silkin, widely recognised as the UK’s leading specialist employment law practice.
UK employers must report their gender pay gap statistics relating to the ‘snapshot date’ of 5 April 2020, but they now have until 4 October 2021 to do so following an extension of the deadline due to the impact of COVID-19.

The announcement was made by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and has been confirmed by the government. It gives employers an extra six months to report their gender pay gap statistics without fear of enforcement action taking place. The EHRC is clear that it will not take any such action in relation to the reporting of 2020’s figures until 5 October 2021.

Campaigns to restart gender pay gap reporting

This announcement comes just weeks after a campaign to ‘restart’ gender pay gap reporting. Last year, the obligation to report gender pay gap statistics relating to 5 April 2019 was suspended on 24 March 2020, the day the UK-wide lockdown began.

Following that, the government’s position as to whether 2020 figures should be reported became muddled. While government guidance seemed clear that the suspension was limited to just one year, equalities minister Liz Truss failed to confirm that. She was recently asked a straightforward question (‘will she restart gender pay gap reporting?’) but did not answer.

Because of this, campaigns were launched calling for reinstatement of gender pay gap reporting by Women in Advertising and Communication, the Fawcett Society and the Trades Union Congress (with Grazia Magazine). The latest announcement, which may be in response to these campaigns, helpfully confirms that employers must report their 2020 gender pay gap statistics.

What should employers be doing now?

Getting the figures right, understanding the causes of gender pay gaps and crafting a suitable narrative all take time. Taking appropriate and effective action on gender equality is important and not something that employers could or should rush. Because of this, many employers are already well advanced in their reporting of April 2020’s gender pay gap data and will want to report their figures over the coming weeks. In contrast, for those employers who have struggled, or whose figures are heavily impacted by COVID-19,  this additional time will be useful.

While the EHRC is charged with enforcing gender pay gap reporting, it may not actually have the legal power to do so. This might be why, to date, its ‘enforcement’ measures have been few in number and modest in scope. To our knowledge, no employer has yet been fined for failing to report timely and accurate gender pay gap statistics.

Setting aside the technical debate over the EHRC’s powers, the real enforcement of gender pay gap reporting takes place in the court of public opinion. No employer wants to have a reputation for presiding over a significant gender pay gap. In the battle for talent, the best and brightest candidates will avoid those businesses where they might not be able to achieve their potential. As a result, many employers are regarding gender pay gap reporting as more than just a chore, but an opportunity to market their workplaces and promote their employment brand.

Tom Heys
Legal Analyst - United Kingdom
Lewis Silkin