UK News

Government presses ahead with gender pay gap disclosure plans

July 2015

The government has confirmed that it is to move ahead with plans to require companies with over 250 employees to disclose data on the gender pay gap among their workforce.

To date the government has only encouraged gender pay reporting on a voluntary basis. This has not been successful, as evidenced in a report in August 2014 which revealed that only five companies had published their gender pay gap information through the voluntary scheme.

The new proposal, which received Royal Assent in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill just before Parliament was dissolved for the UK general election, had been championed by the Liberal Democrats who were at the time part of the coalition government. To the surprise of some commentators the consultation on the new proposals indicates that the Conservative government, normally keen to reduce burdens on business, has made it clear it wants business to take action to reduce the pay gap between men and women – estimated generally at around 20% - and sees the Liberals’ tougher stance of forcing companies to make pay gaps public as a means of achieving this.  Detailed regulations are expected to come into force as early as the first half of 2016. The consultation document seeks responses on matters such as how the reporting requirement is to be framed, frequency of publication, the level of detail required and how it should be enforced. 

It also details a number of ways of measuring the gender pay gap, ranging from simply checking the median average hourly rate for men versus women across the employer to detailing the gender pay gap for each role/grade in the employer. 

Although the exact details of the regulations are the subject to consultation, from both an employee and public relations point of view it is highly advisable for UK employers to take a proactive approach and commence preparatory work to identify pay gaps in their organisations and make plans to address  any pay gap now before it becomes public.

The consultation also makes clear that attention should also be given to barriers which may exist to women progressing in their careers.

The overall tone of the consultation document indicates the government are not treating this as a “tick box” exercise but rather something that is likely to be at the centre of its employment policy. 

Resources

The consultation document can be found here  https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/closing-the-gender-pay-gap

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