How can UK Employers get Equal Pay and Gender Pay Right?

Three HR industry experts discuss gender pay reporting and equal pay audits

The general feedback from UK organisations to mandatory gender pay reporting has been an all-round ‘could-do better’. The results found that the gender pay gap has widened in favour of men in the past year, with 78 per cent of the biggest companies in Britain reporting a gap in favour of men. Meanwhile, equal pay cases continue to attract headlines.

We invited three leading HR support professionals for their thoughts on all things equal pay – this is what they told us:

The HR Solicitor – “Let’s start to meet our equal pay obligations”

Ian Winrow is Senior Partner at North Wales Employment Law specialist Winrow Solicitors and Head of Employment Law at Bangor University.  Ian says:

“According to The Directory for Social Change, the share of women on company boards is only 24%, whilst men represent 76%.  The boardroom gap needs to narrow if we are serious about tackling the gender pay gap.

“Getting employers to meet their legal equal pay obligations would be a start.  The equality act makes it clear that pay discrimination on any protected characteristic, including sex, is unlawful – yet we still see successful tribunals and high-profile breaches making HR Headlines..

“ I’ve worked on multiple equal pay and gender discrimination cases across all sizes of organisations. Workers are legally entitled to equal pay for equivalent job roles. 

“If employers don’t know what ‘equivalent’ means, they can hire a rewards expert to carry out an equal pay audit. 

“We now await the supreme court’s ruling on the Asda dispute, where Asda shop floor roles have been consistently upheld by the courts as comparable to those undertaken by depot workers. These roles pay more and attract more male employees. If successful, the payout, not just by Asda, but in other retail organisations, could be huge.

“One warning – don’t rely on a pay secrecy clause in the employment contract to avoid staff finding out co-worker pay.  This clause is overridden if your employees suspect inequality of pay on gender grounds (or on grounds of another protected characteristic, such as age or race) and staff won’t be held in breach of contract if pay is discussed on these grounds.

“The gender pay gap reports signal that discrimination continues to take place under the radar – as a leading employment lawyer it’s something I’m keen to help employers get right.”

 To learn more about Ian Winrow, visit:

The PR in HR Specialist – “Getting pay and reward right builds trust”

Kay Phelps specialises in PR for the HR sector. She says publishing a wide gender pay gap can easily damage an organisation’s reputation and employer brand:

“As a PR specialist in the HR sector, we highlight interesting and positive work that HR does, using media relations and internal communications to build trust with employees as well as with current and potential customers.

“It goes without saying that publishing a report showing a wide gender pay gap is bad for a brand image, possibly leading to negative press headlines, as well as damaging internal trust within the business.

“Pay is one of the most important issues for employees, and keeping employee trust is crucial for HR and the business.

“Getting pay and reward, and other HR issues right, is a key way to build employee trust – do that, and buyer and external trust follows more easily.”

To learn more about Kay Phelps, visit

The pay and reward expert – “Conduct an Equal Pay Audit – don’t focus on ticking legal boxes”

Rameez Kaleem, Director at Pay and Reward Consultants 3R Strategy, has an extensive career in pay and reward, and has conducted equal pay audits for some of the UK’s best loved organisations.  Rameez says:

“I firmly believe that merely publishing gender pay reports will not close the gender pay gap.  An equal pay audit is the only logical starting point.

“Instead of focusing on meeting the legal minimum, organisations should be transparent about why the gender pay gap exists and clearly articulate what they are doing to bridge this gap. It’s important for employers to find a pay and reward strategy that is visibly fair and builds trust. Ultimately, this is the point of reporting the gender pay gap in the first place but it has simply become a tick-box exercise.

“We have worked with clients that reported a large gender pay gap but carried out detailed analysis and provided commentary to explain why the gap exists and the steps they were taking to reduce this disparity. We help clients who are undertaking an equal pay audit to identify ‘equivalent’ jobs so they can reassure their people that men and women are paid equally for equivalent jobs, or if there are any risks, they are taking immediate steps to address this.

“Communication is critical when it comes to reward and it’s difficult to communicate and build trust with your people with just the mandatory reporting figures. I sincerely hope that by the next round of reporting, we will see more companies going beyond the mandatory requirements and begin making progress on closing the gender pay gap.”

To learn more about Rameez Kaleem, visit