Companies with more than 250 employees would be forced to reveal the “pay gap” between men and women under a plan to be included in the Liberal Democrats’ election manifesto.
Such firms would be required by law to publish figures showing the difference between the pay of male and female staff. The Liberal Democrats had proposed the move in Government but the Conservatives stuck with the present system, which merely encourages companies to disclose the figures.
Only 140 out of 7,000 big firms have done so, and Nick Clegg’s party says it is time to go further. The party would enact Section 78 of the Equalities Act, drafted but not implemented by the previous Labour government.
Mr Clegg said: “Forty years after the Equal Pay Act was passed it is utterly unacceptable that women are not being equally rewarded [at work] – with women paid, on average, 20 per cent less than men.
“Real equality means fair pay. It’s time to accept that the voluntary approach does not go far or fast enough.
“We need to lift the lid on what big companies pay the men and women they employ, with that information there for every employee and customer to see.”
In 2013, the average hourly wage for women was £10.33, against £12.97 for men.
The move opens another rift between the Liberal Democrats and the Tories. Yesterday Tory sources accused Mr Clegg’s party of a “cowardly PR stunt” after it called for fundamental reform of the “bedroom tax.”
One Tory said: “The Lib Dems have never demanded the restoration of the spare room subsidy in private.”
The Liberal Democrats say they have raised objections in public and have changed their mind because of the evidence. They argue social housing tenants should have their housing benefit cut only if they have been offered a smaller home and turned it down.
A study has shown that only 4.5 per cent of tenants have been able to downsize to avoid the “bedroom tax” because of the property shortage, and that nearly 60 per cent of those affected were in rent arrears.