Achieving Equal Pay under the new EU Pay Transparency Directive 

20 July 2023

In June 2023, the European Parliament published the EU Pay Transparency directive in the EU Official Journal; the latest step on its multi-year journey toward pay equity.

The directive — which aims to strengthen equal pay for equal work (or work of equal value) through pay transparency, gender pay reporting, and other enforcement measures — has immediate implications for organisations operating in Europe that ripple across the globe.

A key requirement of the directive is that companies with more than 100 employees must start to identify and explain pay gaps above 5%. While the directive won’t go into effect until 2025, leading organisations are already preparing for these requirements — not only to get a head start on complying with the directive, but also because it’s good for business. 

Pay equity can drive employee engagement; support broader ESG and DEI strategies; as well as support other EU directives such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.

Determining the actual gender pay gap

The gender pay gap, which looks at the average pay difference between men and women, in the EU is 12.7%​, according to Eurostat 2021​ data.

Looking at Mercer data1 we found that the gender pay gap for organisations participating in our 2022 Total Remuneration Survey was 8.7% — likely lower, due to the fact that they have embedded stronger job architecture and market benchmarking practices.

After calculating for objective factors — such as general experience (proxy by age), tenure within organisation, whether the employee is recently hire​d, and the job family and level in the organisation — the actual gap became just 2.8%​.

We acknowledge, the list above of potential objective factors is not complete – simply a starting point to motivate companies to investigate further.

What objective factors can be considered?

Performance is an obvious one — although it requires organisations to have a clearly documented, consistent and aligned performance management process in place. Supervision factors may be another. Specific location factors, such as the city of employment, may also effect pay equity. What about job changes? Recent promotions or demotions may also have an impact on pay.

The power of a pay equity regression analysis

Using a regression-based pay equity approach, companies can assess, for each individual in the organisation, what constitutes equal pay for equal work under the same conditions. This provides a robust internal benchmark — simultaneously assessing the impact of pay for position, performance and personal characteristics like education, skills, effort and responsibility. 

Where unexplained or unjustified pay gaps are identified, companies can work to close these gaps by implementing targeted pay interventions and addressing structural change. 

“A pay equity regression analysis allows organisations to be certified with the Universal Fair Pay Check." As Henrike von Platen, the founder of this certification states. “We want to guarantee to stakeholders, investors and employees that the companies that we certify actually do provide fair pay.” 

How to prepare for Equal Pay across Europe and beyond

Infographic - Four steps to prepare for equal pay across europe and beyond

Four steps toward pay equity in your organisation

  1. Establish Equal Work.
    • Ensure equal work by performing consistent and objective job evaluations to compare equal work of equal value.
    • Create an overarching work architecture that defines roles and career progression  
    • Improve HR access and ability to report on accurate employee data
  2. Assess your pay policies.
    • Apply a consistent set of rules regulating pay, which can provide clarity and reduce the risk of employee backlash, in addition to complying with the directive.
    • Codify requirements for pay and career progression. 
  3. Conduct an equal pay analysis.
    • Calculate gender pay gaps for equal categories of work.
    • Determine if pay gaps are higher than 5%, triggering a joint pay assessment according to the EU Directive.
  4. Strive for — and certify — pay equity.
    • Use pay equity regression analysis to determine objective reasons for pay gaps greater than 5%
    • Remediate pay gaps through a robust analysis focusing on risk areas.  
    • Perform a root-cause analysis to identify pay gaps, both legitimate and illegitimate, perform a root-cause analysis, to identify structural policy and process intervention 
    • Consider obtaining an external certification to officially confirm and communicate your commitment to fair pay.
Around the world — not solely within the EU — organisations are moving toward pay equity. They are taking heed of growing pressure from governments, activist investors and employees, and they are realising the benefits in terms of attracting and retaining the top talent they need to achieve their business objectives. All in all, offering equal pay for equal work is a hot topic because it’s the right thing to do, and long overdue. Now more than ever having a strong policy and procedure around pay equity is fundamental to meeting these requirements. 
[1] Mercer’s 2023 Total Remuneration Survey included 1,708 organisations with more than 250 employees across 34 European countries. 
About the author(s)
Lucye Provera

, Pay Equity, DEI and Workforce Analytics Leader, Europe & UK, Mercer 

Related solutions
Related insights