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Who's afraid of the big bad bonus gap?





We’ve seen a lot of analysis of gender pay figures over the last few months, particularly when a large company publishes their results. Yet no one’s talking about the elephant in the room – staggeringly high bonus gaps.

With just six months to go until the reporting deadline of 4th April, only 136 companies have published their gender pay figures. Of these, only a small proportion provide any kind of narrative to explain their figures – and an even tinier percentage address their bonus gap. It’s a real shame that so many businesses are dragging their heels over gender pay, because it speaks volumes about their commitment to gender equality for employees, both now and in the future. We should applaud those who have already reported – but I can’t help but question why so many employers have chosen to skate over their bonus pay gap.

In a way, the answer is obvious. An incredibly high bonus gap is a damning indictment of the company’s gender pay position and usually indicates a chronic lack of female representation at executive level. It’s difficult to claim that your company supports every employees’ career progression when your bonus gap is 99%.

This is not to say that every company is trying to mislead its employees or the wider public about its gender pay gap. There are many reasons why a company may not include any narrative alongside their results:

  1. They do not have the capability necessary to interrogate the data and pull out the reasons behind the bonus data;
  2. or they do not have the resources to pay another company to do this analysis for them.
  3. Management may have decided that the value gained from a detailed report is not worth the investment, as they feel they won’t lose business over it, or recruitment will not be affected.
  4. HR fear awkward conversations with employees as to why their bonus is so much less than that of their male/female co-worker.

These are all understandable reasons, but the whole point of gender pay reporting is to prompt that awkward conversation – to challenge entrenched ideas about pay and hasten positive change. However, with bonus gaps, it seems that many employers are just hoping that if they ignore it long enough, it will go away.

Unfortunately, hiding behind the sofa is no longer an option. The best way to pre-empt negative publicity about your gender pay figures, especially a high bonus gap, is to take control of the narrative. Publishing a clear, coherent report on your findings from the gender pay reporting requirements allows you to identify and communicate the underlying reasons for any disparity – and crucially, how you intend to tackle them. This gives both employees and customers confidence that their concerns are being taken seriously. It also puts you ahead of your competitors when it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent.

It’s naïve to think that the gender pay gap doesn’t matter to your company. Present and future employees are likely to be put off working there unless you can demonstrate your commitment to fairness. An enormous bonus gap is a particularly obvious sign of barriers to progression for female employees, but the story doesn’t have to end there.

If you need help with your gender pay reporting or narrative, call Innecto on 020 3457 0894.

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