A new law compelling all larger firms to publish details of their gender pay gap seems likely to be breached when it comes into force, an expert has warned, with only about one in 20 firms having made public the necessary data so far.
By early April 2018 all organisations employing 250 or more people are required to declare their gender pay gap – the difference between the average earnings of male and female workers.
With just over three months until the deadline, only 493 of the 9,000 eligible organisations have done so.
Jane Gotts, co-founder of GenAnalytics – a consultancy looking at equality and diversity in business – said it was unlikely that all companies will make the required data public in time.
Ms Gotts said she expected to see a significant increase in companies publishing gender pay gap information in the new year, but with only a few hundred companies having declared so far, she added: “I don’t think they all will do it.”
She said: “That would be a monumental fault which I could see happening.”
Official figures showed that in 2017 that UK’s gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings for full-time employees fell to 9.1 per cent from 9.4 per cent the previous year.
UK Government legislation now requires organisations with 250 or more workers to report annually on any pay gap, with public sector bodies to do this by 30 March 2018. The private and voluntary sectors have until April 5.
Many of the organisations which have published their data already have reported a gender pay gap of 10 per cent to 25 per cent but Ms Gotts said in some firms this rose to more than 50 per cent.
She said: “There are many reasons as to why this is the case – culture, lack of flexible working practices at senior levels, recruitment processes, retaining female talent, unconscious bias, to name a few.
“However, if we are really serious about closing the gender pay gap we need a monumental shift to get more women into senior roles and keep them there.”
There are a “few different factors” for why so many firms have not yet revealed their figures.
She said: “I don’t think businesses see this as a priority – there are no punitive measures if you don’t publish.
“Also I think with the current economic climate, and Brexit, there are so many things going on. But companies don’t see it as a business imperative and priority. There appears to be a ‘wait and see’ approach.”
She continued: “There’s a systemic problem in businesses across the country where women are nowhere near the top, or are there in such small numbers, that this significant gap exists.
“This hasn’t happened overnight and is unlikely to change any time soon.
“The good thing is the companies that are producing these figures, it’s something they have never looked at before.
“We have to see continuous scrutiny ... I think that is the only way we will start to see change happening.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Large employers are legally required to report their gender pay gap – this is not an option, it is the law.
“Some of our most well-known companies have already reported – including Virgin Money, TSB, Fujitsu and Weetabix – but with just over four months to go we want to see all remaining employers report as soon as possible.
“It is simply good business sense to recognise the enormous potential of women and to nurture female talent.
“Only by shining a light on this issue will employers be able to take action to close their gender pay gap, which almost every employer will have – waiting to report won’t change those figures.”
The Equality and Human Rights Commission, the regulatory body responsible for ensuring that all employers with more than 250 employees report their gender pay gap statistics, recently set out its enforcement policy which is open for consultation until February.
Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the commission, said: “Over 40 years since the ban on sex discrimination in pay, it is shameful that women continue to be held back. But change is on the horizon and it’s about time.
“The law now says employers must be transparent about pay for women, and our regulatory role is to make sure this happens. We will educate employers about their responsibilities and hope to see widespread compliance.
“If that doesn’t happen, we won’t hesitate to resort to our more stringent legal powers – including enforcing unlimited fines and convictions.”
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