Legislation comes into force next spring that will require companies and organisations employing more than 250 people to gather annual data on their gender pay gap, for publication from 2018.
However, the majority of people working in PR consultancies will not benefit from this new era of openness because their agency or company employs fewer people than the legal threshold.
Until now, warm words about the necessity of tackling the gender pay gap - before employers are well and truly rumbled by millennials who, by all accounts, will not put up with it - have sufficed to give the impression that the industry is alive to this issue.
This is an inspired and game changing move by the PRCA.
Mary Whenman, president, Women in PR
But, in the absence of action from the industry, the PRCA, which employs 30 people, has taken the lead, in two key ways.
The first is that it has published its own gender pay gap information and found a median hourly pay gap of 9 per cent between all men and women working for the trade association.
Among the lowest paid quartile of workers at the PRCA, the pay gap stands at 4.8 per cent, rising to 6.3 per cent for those in the second-lowest quartile, then dropping to 1.5 per cent for those in the ‘mid-high’ quartile.
However, for the highest paid workers at the PRCA, the pay gap is most pronounced, at 43.7 per cent.
But perhaps even more crucial than publishing its own data, from January the PRCA is set to include gender pay gap reporting in its ‘Communications Management Standard, a quality kitemark used by the global PR industry.
In a signal of its commitment to tackling the gender pay gap, the PRCA will include mandatory reporting in the CMS module, which looks at diversity and equality practices across recruitment, management and salaries.
Significantly, only member organisations that have been audited and passed all sections of the CMS can use the PRCA’s ‘Matchmaker’ referral service, which links agencies with potential clients.
The PRCA has nearly 180 consultancy members which have passed the CMS, and agencies must be audited every two years in order to keep their kitemarks.
The number of consultancies affected by the change is small by comparison, with the number that operate in the UK estimated to be around 4,000, but it does represent nearly half of the PRCA’s 400-strong agency membership.
Francis Ingham (pictured above), PRCA director general, said: "The industry has shown a real appetite for voluntary disclosure and industry-specific solutions, which is why including gender pay gap reporting as a module within the CMS accreditation is a logical decision."
Ingham said the PRCA’s report into its own pay gap acted as a blueprint for companies of any size to investigate the deficit in their organisation and to guide them through the process of voluntary disclosure.
The director general accepted that gender pay reporting was not an end in itself and would not solve the issue.
He added: "Reporting the gender pay gap is only the first step, but it is an important one that will foster a discussion about what employers and the PRCA can do further to address the issue."
The PRCA’s shift, from a purely voluntary approach to compulsory reporting, marks a turning point in the debate around the gender pay gap and may come to be remembered as the moment when the industry moved on from making the right noises whenever the issue was raised to taking tangible action to address it.
Mary Whenman (pictured above), president of Women in PR, said: "This is an inspired and game-changing move by the PRCA. 46 years of the Equal Pay Act has shown legislation is not enough to change behaviour. Linking voluntary gender pay reporting with PR excellence and access to commercial opportunities has the potential to transform our industry. We shouldn’t waste this opportunity to close the PR pay gap."
The CIPR, which has found that its own pay gap stands at nearly £8,500, said work on pay inequality discovered that gender was a key factor influencing salaries, particularly at senior levels.
A CIPR spokesman said: "We welcome the PRCA’s move to require all agencies to publish transparent pay scales, regardless of company size. [They] are uniquely placed to deliver tangible change in consultancies with regards to gender pay."
"We welcome the PRCA’s move and we are are delighted the PRCA and CIPR will be aligned in challenging discrimination."
The spokesman said the CIPR was working with Women in PR on a report, to be published in December, which would shed light on the on the decision-making that reproduces the gender pay gap.