The deadline for gender pay gap reporting is fast approaching. New regulations require all businesses with more than 250 employees to publish pay gap data by 4th April; with public sector bodies expected to report by 30th March.

To date, only 850 out of 9,000 companies have reported. That lack of response risks provoking a political backlash and relevant businesses and organisations would be well advised to act quickly ahead of the deadlines or face negative scrutiny.

Many are rightly nervous about how reports of a large gap may be received. But there are strategies for managing the reporting requirement that could mitigate bad news and demonstrate positive action. So how should businesses and organisations required to report on gender pay respond to this communications challenge?

Analyse your figures and publish a plan

Even businesses reporting large gaps have been praised by government for positive leadership where they have presented strategies for improving performance alongside hard data. While having a 31% pay gap, TSB – for example – has been applauded for being willing to tackle things head-on by publishing a bespoke three-step plan. Yet these have been in the minority. Despite Equalities Office guidance, only half of companies that have reported their gender pay gap have also published a plan to narrow it. Companies that are able to show they have analysed data and are taking appropriate steps around recruitment, flexible working, parental leave and remuneration will be in a much better position to defend themselves when results are published.

Don’t forget internal communications

Gender pay reports will attract at least as much attention inside as outside an organisation. Internal comms are therefore critical. A sizeable gap could sow the seeds of resentment, which would be damaging for morale and employee retention. In the short term it is imperative to be open and transparent with employees about where you need to improve. Why not create a process where you ask them to feed into a company-wide review? Bringing staff with you on the journey is vital.

Face the future

Gender pay is one aspect of a broader debate on equality in the workplace. Ruby McGregor-Smith’s review on race in the workplace made several recommendations, including the introduction of an ethnicity pay gap, which the government has said it will look at if voluntary action does not deliver results. Rachel Reeves MP is considering launching a Business Select Committee inquiry into other areas of workplace diversity, while several companies are even choosing to report their ethnicity pay gap voluntarily.  Whether or not disclosure requirements are brought in for race, age profile, disability or other things, there is increasing focus on whether corporates are doing enough to facilitate change.

The political and media spotlight on equality issues is set to intensify in the coming months, with gender pay differences being a central focus. Proponents argue that this is not merely a matter of social justice but one of economic rationality. Research shows closing the gender pay gap would add £600m to annual GDP by 2025. Diverse businesses are 45 per cent more likely to have grown their market share in the last year, with 70 per cent more likely to have captured a new market.

The pressure will therefore be on large employers in the public and private sectors to demonstrate how they are performing on gender equality, and how they intend to improve that performance.

Lexington’s specialist Corporate Responsibility team can help you develop strategies to reduce your gender pay gap; produce your annual gender pay gap report; and deliver effective internal and external communications plans on your diversity and inclusion initiatives. For further information, please contact Alice Wood at