Do employers have to publish an explanation of their gender pay gap figures?

No, there is no obligation under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 (SI 2017/172) on employers to publish an explanation of their gender pay gap figures. Employers are required to publish figures showing their gender pay gap and gender bonus gap; the proportion of male and female employees who received bonus pay; and the proportion of male and female employees in each quartile of their pay distribution.

The report must include a written statement (signed by a director, partner or other senior individual, depending on the type of organisation) confirming that the information is accurate. However, there is no obligation on an employer to publish any form of commentary explaining the figures or to set out any actions that it may be taking to address the gender pay gap. The draft guide to the Regulations published by Acas and the Government Equalities Office, Managing gender pay reporting in the private and voluntary sectors, recommends that employers voluntarily publish a supporting narrative and an action plan.

Employers should consider the potential damage to their reputation, especially among potential future employees, of failing to put the data in context or to provide an explanation. For example, where an organisation can explain that its gender pay gap is narrower than that generally seen in the wider economy, and/or within its industry, this could enhance the organisation in the eyes of both job applicants and existing employees.