A recent report has revealed that more than half of employers consider the new Gender Pay Reporting obligations to be the 'most important' issue they will face in the context of employment law, over the coming years. 

The Gender Pay Reporting obligations require businesses to report on the differences in average pay between men and women, as assessed on 30 April 2017, and thereafter on 30 April each year. Effectively, businesses will have to provide a 'snapshot' of the differences in average salary and bonus, as well as information in relation to the number of men and women who's pay is each quartiles, ranked low to high.

Businesses have a year to publish the information once calculated, and still have almost 10 months to start looking at the figures they would need to report, and dealing with any concerns.  

This raises the question as to why it is considered the 'most important' issue: is it the issue that employers are most apprehensive about complying with; are the reporting obligations considered too complex or burdensome; or does this answer simply suggest that employers think the underlying issue which the reporting obligations seek to redress, the gender pay gap, is vital to the future of their businesses? 

Certainly the obligation affects a large number of employers, currently applying to all employers who employs 250 or more staff, and there are mumblings that it could be extended. 

Additionally, the wording of the amendment to the Equality Act 2010, which gives rise to the obligation, is far from clear as to precisely how the calculations are to be made. 

Perhaps, though, is the fact that employers will be subject to public scrutiny on the subject, having had the opportunity over the coming months to perform their calculations and redress or explain considerable imbalances, that is the biggest concern. It seems unlikely that there will be high levels of sympathy towards employers who demonstrate large and inexplicable gaps in pay. Employees, and consumers, will no doubt call into question any such organisation's attitude and approach to gender equality, and there may be a knock on effect on recruitment and performance of the business. 

The gender pay gap is a hot topic to which the media is paying close attention, and the obligations look set to be extended and tweaked over the coming years, not least in order to clarify the position in relation to reporting on trans gender and intersex staff.  A very interesting subject to keep an eye on, and certainly of great importance over the coming years.