The Law Society is recommending that all law firms, including those with fewer than 250 employees, should publish their gender pay gap statistics in the current reporting period.
In guidance published today the Society says all members should ‘where practical to do so’ undertake the reporting exercise and publish data on their website alongside a ’narrative report’ and ‘action plan’. It adds that firms should consider gathering information on pay details for others within the workforce, including gaps related to disability, ethnicity and sexuality.
Chancery Lane said its recommendations are ‘best practice’ to ‘set the right standards’ for the legal sector. It will be up to individual firms to decide whether to implement the recommendations.
Under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations, organisations with 250 or more employees were required to publish the average gap in earnings between men and women by 4 April 2018. The second reporting period has now started, in which firms will have to publish their data again by April 2019. The details are published on the government’s website.
Calls to review the regulations have already been made. Conservative MP and chair of the House of Commons’ women and equalities committee Maria Miller previously told the Gazette that many law firms will not fall within the scope of the regulations because of the 'employment status of some people who work in their firms’ and that they should be reviewed.
Some law firms sparked anger during the first reporting period by omitting partners from the data on the grounds that they are ‘not employees’. The negative reaction forced some to resubmit their data to include partners.
The Society, which already said it supports including partners in the data, has suggested firms provide at least three separate figures: one for all the workforce (employees and partners together); one for employees only; and one for partners only. ‘It is best practice to further break down each of these figures by job type (e.g. legal and non-legal/business support roles) and then by level to make them more transparent,’ it added.
According to the Society, the narrative report should take a ‘holistic view’ of policies and practices including recruitment, retention, staff progression and workplace wellbeing while the ‘action plan’ should explain how a firm will address the pay gaps identified.
Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: ‘Law firms can get ahead of the curve by assessing and tackling the range of pay gaps that may exist in their organisation. Inequalities can be compounded by the intersection of protected characteristics like gender and ethnicity, so identifying these dynamics will help firms to create far more effective, sustainable equality action plans.’