Gender pay has become a hot topic over the past decade and the size of some companies’ gaps regularly makes front-page news. The results of Littler’s recent annual employer survey showed that gender pay equity is seen as the most concerning HR issue among European employers, with 37% of those surveyed saying it has caused a 'high or very high' level of concern in the workplace.
But how can a multinational employer or an HR professional with responsibility across EMEA comply with a messy patchwork of laws?
How have gender pay laws developed across Europe?
Over the past few years we have seen gender pay reporting laws come into force in a number of European jurisdictions. Governments have introduced mandatory reporting obligations for companies that employ more than a specific number of employees.
In Great Britain employers have been dealing with reporting obligations for two years already. However, in some jurisdictions reporting requirements have been introduced much more recently. For example, in Spain the relevant legislation was only passed in March. Reporting obligations now affect or will soon affect most medium-sized employers that operate in western Europe and employers should be aware of the gender pay laws relevant to the jurisdictions in which they operate.
When do the obligations start to apply?
The requirements for both when you have to report and what you need to report vary by country. The level at which reporting obligations kick in ranges from 500 employees in Germany to 100 employees in Italy. It is also worth noting that in a number of jurisdictions, such as France and Spain, the introduction of reporting obligations is being staggered so as to affect the largest employers first, followed by smaller employers at a later date. That said, all employers (including those not yet subject to reporting obligations) should be aware of current and proposed requirements in their country in case the obligations apply to them in years to come.
What are the obligations across the different countries?
Unfortunately for employers there is no one-size-fits-all approach to gender pay reporting and obligations vary according to each jurisdiction. In summary:
- In Great Britain employers are required to publish six different statistical metrics on the difference in pay between men and women.
- Reporting obligations are due to come into force shortly in Ireland and it is anticipated that these will be similar to those in Great Britain.
- The reporting obligations in Germany are far less prescriptive and only deal with measures that are taken to promote gender equality and equal pay and the average number of employees per gender, rather than actual gender pay information.
- In Italy employers have to provide wide-ranging information, which includes dismissals, qualifications and retirement data.
- In France employers must calculate a score according to five indicators, for which there is a maximum of 100 points. Companies that score below 75 are required to take appropriate measures to correct disparities within three years.
- In Spain gender equality plans will need to include a wide range of information on the business, including the hiring process, remuneration and promotions. Employers will also need to keep a record of average salaries.
How can employers stay ahead of the curve?
There are a number of practical steps that employers can take to try to minimise their gender pay gap, including publicising family-friendly rights or creating female-focused programmes to specifically encourage women to apply for under-represented roles and progress within the business. Smaller businesses that are not yet subject to reporting obligations may wish to take the opportunity to analyse their data to address any gap before they are required to report on it.
Deborah Margolis is an associate and Raoul Parekh is a partner at GQ|Littler