RollOnFriday can exclusively reveal that MPs on the business select committee wrote to the five Magic Circle firms demanding that they provide it with their partnership gender pay gap figures, and that Allen & Overy refused.

Clifford Chance and Linklaters had already publicly released their partnership stats (CC's mean partner pay gap was 22%, Links was a minute 2.2%). Both confirmed to RollOnFriday that they submitted their figures formally to the committee. Slaughter and May and Freshfields also confirmed to RollOnFriday that they provided their figures, although they have not released them publicly. But Allen & Overy declined, telling the committee that it would give them up when it was ready - in September. Apparently a calculator with a divide button is hard to come by at the firm.
 
A&O regularly and heavily promotes its drive for inclusion and diversity, which makes its decision to hide its partnership's gender pay gap from parliamentary scrutiny all the more remarkable.

 

 

    "A parliamentary request, you say?"


When law firms released their gender pay gap reports earlier in the year to comply with new legislation, most carved out their partnerships. Partner stats are technically exempt from the gender pay gap disclosure obligations, because they are classified as 'owners' under the statute, not 'employees'. That didn't stop critics accusing them of obscuring the true pay gaps within their businesses by eliding their male-dominated upper echelons.

The chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, was sufficiently exercised by the omissions that she called in Slaughter and May's human resources director, Louise Meikle, for a grilling before the committee in May. “What is being masked is the true gender pay gap”, Reeves said, calling Slaughters' gender pay gap report "meaningless". 

RollOnFriday understands that Reeves subsequently wrote to the Magic Circle firms on Friday 25th May demanding that they provide her with their partnership gender pay gap figures within two weeks. A source told RollOnFriday that, considering the subject matter related to fair workplace practices, it was an interesting choice by Reeves to force the firms to scramble to produce the figures over the half-term holiday.

Except Allen & Overy did not. A spokesman for the firm told RollOnFriday, "We were asked for a number we didn't have". When ROF suggested that some of the other firms also didn't initially have the number, he said that A&O would release its figure in September, and added that the firm was being "extremely rigorous" in its calculations. 
 
Sources expect Reeves to publish the results of her fact-finding mission imminently. RollOnFriday understands that the firms have drafted their responses accordingly, with one eye on the public exposure which their submissions will receive. Except A&O.

 

 

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Comments

Anonymous 12 Jun 18

The gender pay gap rules are a joke, and are being played for nakedly political reasons. See https://iea.org.uk/publications/the-gender-pay-gap-reporting-measures for a more analytical approach than almost any politicians have bothered taking.

I would commend more widely the work of Kate Andrews at the IEA for her analysis of the issues: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=IEA+kate+andrews+pay+gap

Anonymous 13 Jun 18

Agreed. Associates and partners are typically paid in lock step. And most firms I've seen are doing their upmost to retain women into senior positions.

The gender pay gap reports just highlight that fewer women are sticking around in the senior roles. The reasons for that are varied - most of which are outside the control of individual employers. For example, most of society still has quite traditional views to child care (all (aside from two) of my female friends who have had children have ditched well-paid jobs to look after them). Admittedly, I only have three female friends, but the point is there nonetheless.

Sure, individual employers could do more to change work practices to accommodate flexible/part-time working, but: (i) the same rights would need to be applied to both men and women (lest be inundated with sex discrimination claims), which makes it impractical and expensive; and (ii) it's difficult to change work practices unilaterally if it risks the viability of the business in a competitive market.

I've come to the conclusion that this problem can only be addressed by a step change in societal attitudes towards work - which will likely only come about through centralised regulation of working hours/practices. Rachel Reeves should get off her hobby horse.

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