Meeting legal requirements to disclose pay gaps between men and women will be the biggest employment-related concern for businesses in the next five years, research suggests as firms struggle to prepare for the new reporting regime.

Regulations set to take effect by April 2018 are expected to include partner remuneration in calculations that organisations employing more than 250 people will be forced to disclose on their gender pay gap.

A government consultation on the draft regulations closed in March.

A study by London firm Lewis Silkin and market researcher Winmark suggests widespread uncertainty among businesses about the potential implications, including administrative costs, of the regulations.

As a result, nearly two-thirds of in-house lawyers and HR managers said gender pay reporting would be the most important employment legal services issue facing their organisation. 

Employment lawyer Dame Janet Gaymer tells the report: ‘I think a lot of organisations haven’t registered yet that they are going to be required to do this. They will need to have the data available in order to do the reporting and that may not be as easy as it first appears.

‘The regulations for the gender pay reporting are not that clear and there is certainly room for interpretation of what is meant.’

Other employment-related issues expected to be of pressing concern are flexible working, workplace employee data protection and cybersecurity.

Respondents anticipate fewer issues around modern slavery, the living wage and apprenticeship programmes.

Meanwhile the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013 may have contributed to less employment work being outsourced to external law firms.

William Lingwood, head of employment at Aviva Group, tells the report: ‘Since the drop-off in terms of tribunal claims, we outsource very little in terms of general employment legal work because we can generally accommodate it within the team.

‘If we had an influx of tribunals then we would certainly use external support but our tribunal numbers have, like everyone else, fallen quite drastically over the last few years following the introduction of fees.

‘We tend to keep a lot in-house and outsource very little in terms of pure day-to-day employment work.’