• Lee Calver
  • 15 July 2015

Plans set out to tackle gender pay gap

The Government has announced that it is to forge ahead with plans to force large organisations to disclose data on the gender pay gap among staff.

A consultation on the measure, which was introduced in the final months of the coalition, commenced yesterday.

David Cameron stated that the move will pressure firms into boosting women’s wages, as he pledges to eliminate the gender pay gap within a generation.

In the last Parliament, the coalition legislated to require firms with more than 250 employees to publish the average pay of male and female employees – with the measures to be introduced in 12 months. The Liberal Democrats pushed for the policy at the time despite Conservative opposition - however, the Tories included mandatory equal pay reporting in their election manifesto.

Confirming that the Government will press ahead with the move, Mr Cameron said it will “cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up”.

The new consultation will look at the detail of how the new gender pay gap regulations will be designed – including what, where and when information will be published.

This news arrives as the Government announces that a target of getting women into at least a quarter of boardroom seats at the UK’s biggest firms by 2015 had been met.

A target had been set in 2011 by Lord Davies after conducting a review into the gender balance on company boards.

Commenting on the news, Lib Dem former Equalities Minister, Jo Swinson, said:

"Saying we can afford to wait for another generation to close it is, to put it mildly, unambitious.

"The UK economy is currently missing out on the talents of too many women. In government, my Lib Dem colleagues and I fought tooth and nail with the Conservatives to get them to agree to even minimal changes to help close the gender pay gap."

Confederation of British Industry Deputy Director-General, Katja Hall, said of the 25% target being met:

"Businesses recognise the value of having a diverse board that reflects society and their customers. That is why we have reached this important milestone on time.

"But we must not let our guard drop. Progress has relied on making sure new appointments are diverse, and this must continue."

Also commenting, Dr Clare Lyonette, from the University of Warwick’s Institute for Employment Research, said:

“Of course it is welcome that the Government is introducing new legislation to introduce mandatory reporting on pay for larger organisations, with the purpose of closing the gender pay gap, but there is still a long way to go.

“The Equality and Human Rights Commission has been calling for these changes for years. The legislation needs to ensure transparency and a real culture change within organisations; otherwise this may become just another tick-box exercise.

“There are also additional issues to address to ensure that women do not fall behind men in the workplace, such as the quality of part-time jobs and the full-time/part-time pay gap; the prohibitive costs of childcare; and any residual gender discrimination within organisations, whereby women are seen to be less committed to work than men.

“However, this is certainly a step in the right direction.”

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