Government suspends gender pay gap reporting, citing coronavirus

Equalities minister Liz Truss, an outspoken proponent of business deregulation, announced the decision

Minister Liz Truss suspended the regulatory requirement
Minister Liz Truss suspended the regulatory requirement

The government has suspended companies' obligation to report their gender pay gaps, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement, Minister for Women & Equalities, Liz Truss, and Equality and Human Rights Commission chair, David Isaac, said: “We recognise that employers across the country are facing unprecedented uncertainty and pressure at this time.

"Because of this we feel it is only right to suspend enforcement of gender pay gap reporting this year.”

The deadline for public sector bodies reporting gender pay gap data was due to be next Monday, 30 March - with private companies due on 4 April.

Ms Truss, the minister who who suspended the requirement, is an outspoken supporter of slashing regulations for businesses.

In 2018 she met with a series of right-wing American think-tanks to discuss deregulation and the benefits of “Reaganomics" and "regulatory reform".

The minister's own department for international trade had the worst increase in the gender pay gap last year for any government department, the latest figures show.

The department reported a significant rise in its gender pay gap from 9.4 per cent in 2018-19 to 12.9 per cent in 2019-20, according to the statistics released last month.

Some businesses have been critical of legislation or proposals around gender pay gap reporting.

The CBI said extra "government certification" proposed by Labour at the last election was likely to add "bureaucracy" to the reporting process, while Ms Truss herself criticised the opposition party's plan to close the pay gap faster as "overpromising".

The requirement for business and other organisations with over 250 employees to report their gender pay gap data was introduced in 2017.

The government defines the gender pay gap as "the difference between the average earnings of men and women, expressed relative to men’s earnings".

Employers must both report their data to the government online and also make it publicly available in a written statement on their websites.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which represents the HR profession, welcomed the suspension by the government on Tuesday.

Charles Cotton, a senior advisor at the CIPD said: "Some employers will find that not reporting their gender pay gap at this difficult time will give them extra breathing space that they can use to focus on the urgent task at hand of protecting their workforce and the business. The CIPD is pleased that the Government recognises the incredible pressure that the HR profession is under at the moment.

"But, when normality starts to return, we encourage employers to turn their attention back to this important agenda. Most organisations should already have their gender pay data to hand, so if they are in a position to submit their figures then we would strongly encourage their HR teams to do so, especially if they have a narrative and action plan ready to publish as well. This will help demonstrate that, notwithstanding the current crisis, their employers are looking towards the future and playing their part in creating a fairer workplace."

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