The Government Equalities Office has published new research giving helpful guidance on clearer ways for employers to present pay gap data. The research is the result of a trial by the Behavioural Insights Team focusing on how the public interprets gender pay gap figures. Taking as its starting point the idea that gender pay gap data should be a way for people to hold companies to account, the trial sought to find the most transparent way for figures to be presented. The question they were aiming to answer was “How should gender pay gap information be presented to drive change effectively?”.

Researchers tested four different ways of presenting gender pay gap data, with variations based on whether the figures were contextualised against a benchmark for their sector, and whether the data was expressed in percentage terms or in terms of pounds and pence. The findings indicate that people respond better to visual representations of the figures, described as money rather than percentages: i.e. illustrating that women at x organisation earn 90p for every £1 that men earn. Researchers also concluded that benchmarking of gender pay gap statistics (i.e. comparing companies against each other) better enabled people to make assessments as to which companies were performing well as against their competitors.

When reporting their figures for the first time, many organisations chose to go further than they were required to do, by adding information that interpreted reasons for the pay gap, and explaining actions being taken to tackle it. Some companies also provided more detailed statistics. But, for the most part, figures were presented as percentages (in line with Government guidance) with the adoption of visual aids being varied. With the first round of reporting now complete, this new research gives helpful guidance on clearer ways to present pay gap data. Companies keen to use pay gap reporting as a positive tool for both internal communications and messaging to the wider market would be well advised to take this into account when preparing their statements for the second year of reporting.

For more information on gender pay gap reporting please see our blogs:

Gender pay gap reporting: do we need more?

Gender pay gap reporting: why it matters now