Employers which from next year operate with a gender pay gap risk harming their reputation if they fail to explain it and show how they are tackling the issue, the Institute of Directors West Midlands' Women as Leaders group were told at their Spring event.
From April 2018, businesses with 250 or more employees will be obliged to make gender-related information, including overall pay gap figures, the bonus pay gap and numbers of men and women across four pay bands, publicly available.
The figures must be included on the company's website and will also be published on a Government-sponsored website.
Employment lawyer Hannah Clifford told Women as Leaders members that she predicts the majority of organisations will have a gender pay gap.
She says however that businesses will be judged by being open on the issue - and this includes explaining how the gap has occurred in the first place and how it will be tackled.
Ms Clifford told the Women as Leaders audience at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Birmingham, that she welcomes the move by the Government to introduce the law, particularly after attempts to encourage big employers to volunteer the information met with little success.
"That this information must be put into the public domain from next April is a real step forward for gender equality in the workplace," said Ms Clifford, an associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell.
"When the Government asked employers to make the information public on a voluntary basis, 300 businesses signed up to the idea but only seven went on to publish their figures. So it is great that this will now be compulsory.
“From next April there will be no hiding place for employers who persist with a gender pay gap, bury their heads in the sand and do not address the issue in their company strategy.
"And they will lose out, both in terms of credibility and missing out on the deep talent-pool of women in business who do not wish to join an organisation which ignores this key issue.
"Those employers who are seen to be more open and proactive in relation to the issue will be much more likely to attract the most talented candidates for jobs.
"It is very important that businesses which will be affected by the new legislation start preparing now by gathering information, preparing a business plan and recognising the risks and opportunities that publication of this data will present.
“The majority of organisations are likely to have a gap but ultimately they will be judged on how they deal with the issue and how they perform in the future.”
* Women as Leaders is a thriving group (part of the Institute of Directors West Midlands) which promotes and supports women in business through social and networking events. For more information please contact Sue Hurrell