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What are the key differences between gender pay gap reporting in NI & GB?

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 2 February 2018
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

Q: Gender pay gap reporting is causing a lot of concerns in Northern Ireland. But it appears it will not be required in Northern Ireland unless we get Stormont up and running again. Should we publish anyway or at least prepare the ground so we can publish quickly, assuming that Stormont ever gets going? What are the key differences between gender pay gap reporting in Northern Ireland and in GB?

Seamus: Well, to give the audience an indication there, the position is that gender reporting comes in GB in April 2018. So, we’re not far off from that date. We have legislation in place in Northern Ireland under the Employment Act, Northern Ireland, 2016. But it’s still in draft form. We have an issue just in terms of Stormont, as we know.

Scott: It’s a regulation to enforce that. It should have been in place, but it isn’t.

Seamus: It should have been in place and it isn’t. The reality is that we don’t have a crystal ball as to what’s going to happen to Stormont. But if we look on the bright side and the hopeful side of life, we would anticipate that this will be legislation that will be brought in sooner rather than later hopefully. So, absolutely, I think, for the answer to the question, it’s get your ducks in a row at this point. It is on the way. We know that. There maybe will be lessons that can be learned from what happens in GB, but get your ducks in a row. It’s a good idea. It’s a good starting point in terms of maybe having a look at what the scenario is going to be within your workplace.

Scott: There are lots of other places. The government website you can go on and you can check all the gender pay gap reports that have been put up. There’s 700 or 800 of them at the moment. You’ve just got to publish certain figures in relation to male and female, but it’s different in Northern Ireland.

Seamus: There are some key differences that are going to be made. In Northern Ireland, the legislation is planned to go further than it is in GB with a requirement that the companies here or the employers here publish information to include workers within each pay band based on their ethnicity and disability. The figure at the minute in England is that you have to have employees of at least 250 within your business or your organisation. Given the size and the population of the workforce in Northern Ireland, we would imagine that that’s going to be a reduced figure.

It could be something along the lines of 50 more employees that you have to report. So, I don’t think we’ll get away with the 250 aspect because the reality here is that here wouldn’t be that many reports that would be coming out. The other key thing is there’s a penalty that’s anticipated that will be enforced in Northern Ireland when it comes to if you field the report. The fine can be up to £5,000 for each employee.

Scott: So, that’s if you don’t publish the reports and you have 100 employees, that’s a fair chunk.

Seamus: Absolutely. It’s significant. I would imagine that there be some sort of view taken in terms of the size of the employer. So, if you’re looking at one of our larger employers, maybe the likes of Tesco or someone along that size who has a significant number of employees, you could be well into millions of pounds there. I would also have thought that there would be the aspect that they would consider the size and the resources of the employer in terms of is it your first offense. Those sorts of aspects I don’t necessarily think it will be a strict view of £5,000 per employee. There could be arguments that could be made on that.

The reality is that there is going to be the obligation to report and there’s the risk of non-reporting as well. So, I do think it’s a good idea. It’s an aspect that you should be monitoring. It is on the way, get prepared, get a head start to it, be ready to implement your reporting. I don’t think that you’re not obliged to report anything at this point. You may take a view that you don’t want to start reporting it until you’re obliged to do it, but we can look at the time period now that we have and the gift in that, and we can maybe look at our internal reports and see if there’s issues that are going to arise and maybe taking a step now to address them.

Scott: You don’t want to be the one with the worst pay gap in Northern Ireland.

Seamus: No. We don’t want to be identified. Yes.

Scott: Or something like that.

Seamus: That’s the thing. If it’s broken down into sectors, it will identify the good and the bad, if I put it as plainly as that. I suppose you don’t want to be identified on the wrong side of the fence if your comparator companies that do have the same business employees and they don’t have that problem, there’s no gap there.

Scott: You can at least do it on gender.

Seamus: Yes.

Scott: At the moment, the difficulty in Northern Ireland is it’s going to be very difficult getting ethnicity, even defining that and disability. You probably don’t know if your employees haven’t given it, if you haven’t gathered that information.

Seamus: You’ve never had to put it together before. That’s the thing. There will be all sorts of issues that will arise from it. But maybe we’ll get a bit of a lead-in period and see what happens in GB.

 

Q: My company is registered in Northern Ireland, but also has employees and operations in England, the Isle of Man and in the Republic of Ireland. Do we need the pay gap analysis in each of the jurisdictions in line with the requirements of each rather than for the organisation as a whole based on NI requirements?

Seamus: Yeah. The short answer to that is yes. I think it’s a jurisdictional point and that you will be required to file reports for each jurisdiction that you’re in. I know that you could have employees and maybe the bulk of your work and the bulk of your employees are in Northern Ireland, but you might have a number that you employ in England as well and there will be a separate reporting position for it.

Scott: For England, if you have over 250 employees, you’re likely to have to report . . . well, GB is . . .

Seamus: Yes, GB.

Scott: It’s England, Scotland, and Wales.

Seamus: Yes.

Scott: The Republic of Ireland, they’re bringing it in at a level 50, it looks like.

Seamus: Fifty, yeah.

Scott: It’s not in place yet and there’s draft legislation and the Isle of Man I don’t think is covered. Assuming it is, there may will be a separate one for the Isle of man. Northern Ireland is the one where you may have the most employees, but at the moment, you’re not required to do anything, but it’s wise that you would get your ducks in a row. It’s going to come in. Any kind of government, they’re going to bring in this.

Seamus: It’s all about transparency at the minute. It’s inevitable, I think.

 

This article is correct at 02/02/2018
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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

The main content of this article was provided by Seamus McGranaghan. Contact telephone number is 028 9032 1000 or email seamus.mcgranaghan@oreillystewart.com

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