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Gender pay gap reporting… for SMEs?

It’s a sad reflection on society and the world of work in particular that increased fairness tends only to come with legislation and enforcement. In other words, if you don’t make us, we don’t change.

When it comes to the pay gap between genders, it’s the compulsory reporting requirements for businesses with more than 250 employees that is driving (slow) change. But what about SMEs? They don’t have to report. Does that mean they have no gender pay gap? Of course they do. Should they do anything about it? Only if a) they feel they it’s just, and b) they don’t want to get left behind in their industry sector…

All that said, there is some hope: though it appears anecdotal, some online sources (e.g. staffsquared.com) are finding that industries dominated by SMEs are actually leading the way in closing that gap. So, what are SMEs doing (and what can they do) to narrow the gap AND be seen to be doing so?

#1 – Don’t have a gender pay gap

Okay, let’s start with the obvious. Ensure gender isn’t a factor in pay and if you do have any imbalance, fix it. The oft-heard excuse, But we can’t afford to doesn’t cut it. Ifyou can’t find a way to run your business without discriminating against part of your workforce, you probably don’t deserve to have one.

#2 – Ensure someone senior is responsible

If you have a gender pay gap that you are working to eradicate, view it as an important strategic goal. Make it a KPI. Agree metrics and specific, timed objectives. Make it the responsibility of someone on your leadership team. Not only does that tell others that you’re serious but it also makes success more likely (if it’s no one’s specific responsibility then sure enough, no one will do it).

#3 – Transparency about pay

If your pay structure is a secret, people will assume you have something to hide. Being open about what everyone can expect to be earning in a role or at a level (and for that structure to clearly have no divisions based on gender) keeps everything in the open. From their first day, an employee knows what they can expect to earn and – broadly – how that measures up to their colleagues. Avoid mistrust and resentment, be open about pay.

#4 – Publish your average salaries

Larger businesses that are required to comply with gender pay gap reporting can be named and shamed – the information is effectively placed in the public domain. Why not do the same and show that you have nothing to hide and, even better, perhaps you have something to be proud of (and that will boost your brand and reputation).

#5 – Check your workplace culture

Often a workplace culture has elements that date back years, unspoken, unacknowledged, but rigidly adhered to (often without much thought – That’s just how we do things around here…) If your culture treats male and female employees differently, that’s something to address; e.g. do you offer shared parental leave?

And if all that’s too long to read, here’s the short version: check your average male and female salaries (both overall and for specific roles and levels) and if there’s anywhere women are on a scale or earning on average less than their male colleagues… just pay them more. A one-off salary increase can level it all out.

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