Government demands for gender pay gap reporting by April 2018 represents a major threat to the reputations of employers, according to new research.

A survey of more than 1,000 senior professionals, working in Great Britain, revealed 84% of respondents believe the issue will damage the reputation of organisations.

The research from public relations and communications consultancy Golin, investigated the reputational risks companies face from gender pay gap.

Over three quarters (77%) said organisations will likely lose staff over the issues, while 73% believe the worst offenders will find it harder to recruit and 76.5% said they should be ‘named and shamed’ for their gender pay gap.

Putting this into perspective alongside other issues that affect business reputations, over a third (36%) of respondents said they feel the issue is potentially more toxic than corporate tax avoidance.

Concern over the issue was greatest among female respondents with 39% saying they would actually consider leaving if their company reports a problematic gender pay gap.

Bibi Hilton, MD of Golin, says: “Organisations shouldn’t hide from this issue, or put it off hoping to get lost in the crowds reporting ahead of the April deadline. They should establish what their gap is as soon as possible and ensure they know how and why it has come about. Armed with that information they can plan to put it right and communicated what they are doing, to the public, employees and media. Even if they are starting from a bad place at least they will have something positive to talk about and will be able to show progress.”

“The organisations who will suffer the worst damage to their brand will be those who do nothing and leave people in the dark.”

Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, adds: “Knowing the figures is important but it’s just a first step, those who make the greatest progress will develop an evidence based action plan and start to make meaningful changes – from flexible working by default to supporting fathers in the workplace. As well as indicating the earnings gap, the pay gap represents lost productivity, where the skills and potential of women in work are underused.

“So getting an organisation’s response to pay gap reporting right will be good for women but also for the bottom line. It’s an opportunity no one can afford to miss.”