Michaela Gray, senior manager at Golin, says businesses should act now to prepare their comms strategies for “toxic fallout” from the new gender pay reporting rules.
The start of compulsory gender pay gap reporting will expose the employment practices of every business with more than 250 staff. From 4 April 2018, businesses will be scrutinised and industries mocked as pay stereotypes are proven true.
In a recent Golin survey, 84% of business professionals acknowledged the reputational damage this new legislation could cause. With 76.5% of people believing businesses should be “named and shamed” for their gender pay gap, the media has been given an open invitation.
You can imagine frenzied business journalists ranking the worst performers in league tables, commentators reacting with dismay and calls to boycott backward businesses. Employees (mostly female) may even huddle around coffee machines and swap tips on recruiters to call.
The gender pay gap will eventually fall from the headlines. But the results will remain a reference point to feature in company news stories for months to come. In that time, stakeholders will consider their partnerships and shift their alliances, while better performing businesses will distance themselves from the worst offenders in their sector.
And then will come the resignations. Golin’s recent GPG corporate risk research, found that over three quarters (77%) of business professionals believe organisations will lose staff over the issue, while 73% believe the worst offenders will find it harder to recruit.
This will be a tumultuous time for UK businesses. But for communicators, getting lost in the crowd is wishful thinking.
The first step is to establish what your business’ pay gap is as soon as possible and ensure your team knows why it has come about, so they can communicate what you are doing to improve. That information will underpin both the external and internal narratives – and both will be essential to managing reputational risk and limiting the fall out.
Escaping scrutiny in the media is only half the risk. The other comes from within, as disgruntled employees sink in morale and their productivity falls. Moves to competitor businesses will also become more attractive where they offer more equal pay.
With less than five months until compulsory gender pay gap reporting and only 85 businesses declaring their results so far, the time to prepare your communications strategy is now.