Government scraps Labour's planned rules on equal pay

The Government has scrapped plans to force big businesses to disclose the difference in pay for men and women they employ, on the day it emerged that little progress had been made in bringing women into the boardroom.

The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, said yesterday she had ditched plans drawn up by the previous government and due to come into force in 2013, calling it a "blueprint for change".

Employers will now be asked to publish gender pay data on a voluntary basis only. A spokesman for the Home Office said the Government would work closely with business to make sure the approach was successful.

This marks a stark U-turn from Ms Featherstone, who said in opposition that a voluntary audit system "is hardly worth the paper it's printed on".

The Government said it would monitor the number of companies releasing pay information each year, to assess whether the voluntary approach had been a success. Mandatory reporting has not been ruled out if the results are unsatisfactory.

Speaking at the launch of the 2010 Female FTSE 100 report, drawn up by the Cranfield School of Management, Ms Featherstone said: "We want to move away from the arrogant notion that government knows best, to one where government empowers individuals, businesses and communities to make change happen."

She criticised Labour's plans as bringing in red tape, adding that it "wasn't just a futile approach, it was a damaging one". She said: "Bucketloads of regulations were being dumped on businesses already struggling to keep their heads above water in the recession."

Ceri Goddard, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equal pay, pointed out that women in the UK were paid, on average, one sixth less than men. There were also currently 45,000 women bringing claims against their employers over equal pay. She said the decision was "a huge disappointment, and means this injustice will continue for a long time to come. The Government has today consigned another generation of women to lower pay".

However the news was welcomed by the Confederation of British Industry. Katja Hall, the CBI's director of employment policy, said the body would work with ministers "to develop a system that works for employers and delivers results".

Miles Templeman, the director general of the Institute of Directors, also welcomed the plan, saying: "While there may be some instances of illegal discrimination still taking place, we believe this is very uncommon."

Ms Featherstone said the Home Office would lead by example, pledging that by the end of this Parliament at least half of new hires to the boards of public bodies would be women.

She added that the Government would push ahead with some Equality Act measures, including allowing employers to choose a candidate from a group that is under-represented in the workforce, where there are two applicants of equal merit.

The latest Female FTSE 100 report showed disappointing results yesterday, as the number of women in the boardroom hardly improved. Of 1,076 directors on the boards of the largest listed companies in the UK, just 135, or 12.5 per cent, were women. This marks a rise from 12.2 per cent last year and 12 per cent the year before. Ms Featherstone called the progress "painfully slow". The report hailed Burberry, where three of eight board members are women. The Government has appointed Lord Davies to work with FTSE 100 companies to improve the representation of women on their boards, Ms Featherstone pointed out.

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

Recruitment Genius: Financial Adviser

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Guru Careers: Application Support Analyst / 1st Line Support

£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...

Guru Careers: .NET Developer / Web Developer

£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence