This means that public sector employers will have a slightly different 'snapshot' date for the purposes of gender pay gap reporting from large private sector organisations, to whom similar requirements will be introduced in April.
The final regulations applicable to public sector employers clarify a number of issues, including the definitions of 'employees', 'pay' and 'bonus pay', according to employment law expert Helen Corden of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.
Corden said that the new reporting regime involved a "very different approach" to gender pay gaps from the reviews that these employers had previously carried out as part of their public sector equality duties.
"These have typically focused on the gender pay gap between male and female employees in each grade of their pay framework, while the new reporting regime focuses on the gender pay gap in the workforce as a whole," she said. "This is very likely to produce a higher pay gap figure than a grade by grade approach."
"Employers should consider reporting gender pay gaps in each grade alongside the 'whole business' figures required under the new regime, to put their overall gender pay gap in context. Private sector employers who are already working on their approach to gender pay gap reporting are typically considering producing some narrative commentary around their gender pay gap figures; in particular to explain the steps they are taking to close the gap over time," she said.
Although often discussed in the media as an equal pay issue, this was less of a factor in the public sector where pay and grading frameworks, underpinned by job evaluation schemes, were common, Corden said.
"In fact, the main impact of the new reporting regime will be to highlight gender imbalances in the workforce and issues relating to the recruitment, retention and promotion of women into higher paid roles," she said. "Addressing these imbalances will be key to reducing the gender pay gap."
The reporting requirements will apply to public bodies in England and to certain crossborder authorities and non-devolved authorities operating across Great Britain with 250 employees or more on the 31 March 'snapshot date'. Scotland and Wales will introduce corresponding regulations, with their own gender pay reporting requirements. Reporting will be introduced as an extension of the public sector equality duty, rather than as a standalone requirement.
Affected employers will be required to publish their overall mean and median pay gaps based on gross hourly pay for men and women, expressed as a percentage; as well as their mean and median gender pay gaps. They will also be required to publish the proportion of male and female employees within each 'quartile' of their pay distribution, as well as the proportion of men and women that have been paid a bonus in the preceding 12-month period. There is no requirement to publish additional narrative information, although employers will be free to do so.
The reporting requirements for the public sector mirror, as far as possible, the requirements for the private sector. So, for example, the definition of 'employees' includes anyone under a contract of employment, a contract of apprenticeship or a contract personally to do work, meaning that it therefore potentially includes workers and self-employed consultants. The final regulations also clarify that police officers and members of the armed forces should be classed as 'employees' for the purposes of the reporting requirement.
Employers will be required to publish details of their first pay gaps on their own websites and on the government's planned digital portal by 30 March 2018. There is no requirement for this information to be accompanied by a statement from a senior member of the organisation confirming that the information is accurate, as is the case for the private sector reporting requirement.