Attempt to close gender pay gap

Firms that check and publish any difference in pay between male and female staff will receive limited immunity from investigation, the equalities commission announced today.

The "unprecedented" step aimed to encourage businesses to take voluntary measures to tackle the country's gender pay gap, said the Equality and Human Rights Commission, although the CBI said it did not support the move.

The commission said women were still paid 20 per cent less per hour than men, with a wider gap of 25 per cent in private firms, 40 years after the Equal Pay Act came into force.

A study by the commission showed that half of workers believed tackling pay discrimination was a top priority, but fewer than one in 10 firms widely published pay gap information.

Firms with more than 250 employees which publish details were unlikely to receive formal requests for further information over the next two years, it was announced.

Commission chairman Trevor Phillips said: "I'm pleased that the Commission has been able to play such a unique role in coming up with some innovative and concrete solutions to begin tackling the issue of the gender pay gap.

"Our research shows that the majority of businesses in the UK realise that they need to address the significant differences between men and women's pay that still exist 40 years after the Equal Pay Act.

"Transparency is really the first step to addressing the gender pay gap. If an employer doesn't look at their own gender pay gap, how do they address it? By understanding that they have a gender pay gap problem they can start to take steps to address it, and, of course, it must make good business sense to be rewarding talented staff on merit and results rather than gender.

"Those that take up these measures will receive some immunity from our investigative powers. I hope this incentive combined with the goodwill and commitment shown by our partners so far means that we can deliver high levels of participation on a purely voluntary basis, ensuring that gender pay transparency will become normal business practice."

Katja Hall, the CBI's director of employment policy, said the business group could not support the proposals, adding: "There is no disagreement about the need to address the lack of women in higher-paid jobs, but there is a disagreement about what will actually work, and what will backfire.

"The publication of average salary figures for men and women, which could be made compulsory under the terms of the Equalities Bill, could be misleading. People could think that women are paid less than men in the same role, which is rightly illegal, when differences will actually reflect the proportions of men and women in higher-paid jobs.

"We need policies that will encourage talented women to aim for and apply for better-paid roles. Making companies that are struggling to attract suitable female applicants for senior roles publish average gender-pay figures could make it even more difficult."

The CBI put forward an alternative which it said would have enabled companies to report on progress towards gender equality in a meaningful way, saying: "Unfortunately the EHRC has missed a critical opportunity to propose a workable, effective policy, and the CBI has had to reject its report. "

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Guru Careers: Pricing Analyst

£30 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pricing Analyst with experienc...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Sales Team Leader - Wakefield, West Yorkshire

£21000 - £24000 per annum: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged b...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders