With the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019 getting its second reading tonight, once again we’ve seen in the UK the challenges for companies when it comes to accurately delivering their gender pay gap reporting. Now in its second year, many businesses have missed the deadline or apparently provided inaccurate information. The technical task of gathering all of this data for companies with over 250 people is substantial. And effectively gathering the accurate info is just one of the reputational issues that companies need to be aware of here in Ireland.

The gender pay gap legislation has now been published and is awaiting its second stage. Whilst delayed, the long timeline may provide false hope for some companies. We are already advising businesses about the need to prepare much earlier for the legislation. And in fact, why wait for the final details when there is an opportunity to build reputational capital by releasing your data and a realistic action plan right now. Any company seeking to get ahead of the curve this way will look not just more transparent than their peers, but will also go some way to proving how seriously they take their diversity and equality challenge.

If you are a company with more than 250 people here in Ireland here is what we think you should start thinking about before the legislation arrives:

Publish early, publish often – why wait and why only publish once a year when you can get going now.
Communicate internally first – the first your employees hear about your pay gap shouldn’t be in the newspaper.
Demonstrate historical progress – the first report doesn’t just have to be that years data, go back further to show what you have achieved.
Publish your action plan and long-term timeline – the data alone isn’t enough, alongside this you need a clear plan and timeline even if that timeline means generational change.
Go beyond the minimum data – additional information will help to better explain your story so don’t be afraid to overshare.
Always apply context to the data – you wouldn’t release your financial results with an explanation so make sure you are clear why your gap exists.
Choose your timings wisely – waiting to the final deadline and hoping you slip through the net because others are being criticised is not a strategy.
Adopt an industry leadership position – any company in a male dominated industry that shares best practice thinking will have the chance to leap ahead of peers.
Think about the impact on recruitment – employees are likely to start assessing pay gaps before they apply for roles.
And give yourself time to prepare – as many in the UK have discovered, finding data from so many payroll sources isn’t easy.

The experience from many companies in the UK has pointed to the benefit of creating a senior lead within the organisation to manage the process and deliver a compelling rationale for the action plan. Alongside this external expertise from accounting & pay roll specialists, legal and communications advisors should be enlisted early on.

Whilst the deadline seems far away, companies taking a proactive position and preparing much earlier are likely to benefit reputationally from this important legislation.