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No more gaps in the public sector: gender pay gap regulations published – and additional Equality Duty requirements

Our readers are no doubt aware of the gender pay gap regulations which require private and voluntary sector employers with at least 250 employees to publish annual information on their gender pay gap.  If you haven’t read our previous blogs on this topic (posted DecemberJune and February of 2016) then you will no doubt have seen it in the media over recent months.

These regulations – or a version of them – have now been extended to public sector employees and draft regulations have recently been published here and will come into force on 31 March 2018. 

The principles and requirements of the public sector regulations are very similar to the existing private and voluntary sector regulations (found here) so eligible public sector employers with more than 250 employees will have to publish the same types of information about their employees as eligible private and voluntary sector employers. The details of these are covered in our previous blog posts but the key points are:

• Employers will be required to publish their overall mean and median gender pay gaps (expressed as a percentage and based on gross-hourly pay).
• Employers will also be required to report on the number of men and women in each quartile of their pay distribution.
• “Employee” for these purposes includes employees, workers and apprentices.
• Employers will be required to publish the information on their own (publically available) website and will also have to upload the information to a government-sponsored website.
• Employers will need to publish the requisite data on an annual basis.

As you might expect, there are a few differences too. These are:

• The “snapshot date” for the public sector pay information is 30 March (rather than 5 April as it is for private and voluntary sector employers).
• This means that the first deadline for publication of public sector information is 30 March 2018.
• The regulations are published as part of the existing Public Sector Equality Duty (which does not have an equivalent in the private and voluntary sectors, hence the need for stand-alone regulations for private companies and voluntary organisations).

More significantly, there are two separate and additional requirements for public sector employers to publish information to show it is complying with the Public Sector Equality Duty. Specifically:

• public sector authorities must publish information by 30 March 2018 and every year thereafter demonstrating compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. This includes:
o information about employees if the organisation has more than 150 employees; and
o information about other persons (such as students) affected by its policies and practices.

• public sector authorities must also publish by 30 March 2018 and every four years thereafter specific and measurable information about one or more objectives it thinks it should achieve in order to meet any of the three core objectives of the Public Sector Equality Duty. As a reminder, these objectives are to:
o eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act;
o advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and
o foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

• If you are covered by these obligations and have published equality objectives anytime between 31 March 2014 and 30 March 2018 then there is no need to publish this information again for four years from the date of your publication.

Both these types of information must be published in a manner that is accessible to the public but this can be within another published document. So, unlike the gender pay gap reporting obligations, there is no requirement for this information to be published on the organisation’s website.

In theory none of these points are particularly new or unexpected as they have either been well trailed (the gender pay gap requirements) or are just a new version of the previous equality duty obligations (the annual a four yearly publishing of “objectives” information). Nevertheless, it is a good reminder for the public sector of these obligations. Public sector employers will have to ensure they comply with the relevant timetables alongside their existing work.

The Government has also this week published draft guidance on the private and voluntary sector gender pay gap requirements and these are the subject of a separate blog post (seen here). We can assume that future guidance on the public sector will be very similar so it would be worth public sector employers reading the blog.

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