The government has launched a consultation to establish the details of its plans to make it complusory for large employers to publish the average salaries of male and female staff.
The consultation will also look into what information from employers will be published, as well as where and when.
Plans for the new reporting regulations, which will apply to organisations with more than 250 employees, were first announced in March 2015. Prior to this, employers were encouraged to publish information about differences in men and women’s salaries under the 2011 ‘Think, Act, Report’ campaign. However, this was voluntary and organisations could choose what information they made public and where.
In an article published in The Times today (14 July), prime minister David Cameron said that the measure would help to address the gender pay gap.
“Today I’m announcing a really big move: we will make every single [organisation] with 250 employees or more publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. That will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up.
“Transparency, skills, representation, affordable childcare: these things can end the gender pay gap in a generation. That’s my goal.”
Nicola Rabson, global head of employment and incentives at law firm Linklaters, said: “The consultation is a prelude to regulations designed to speed up the rate at which the UK’s gender pay gap (currently standing at 19.1%) closes.
”The consultation is wide ranging and has reopened the question of the size of employers, in terms of employee numbers, which will be required to report, as well as the content, frequency and manner of reporting.
“The most vexing issue is likely to be the level of detail that is required to be published; an overall pay comparison of the pay of an organisation’s male and female employees will provide considerably less information than a job-by-job comparison. Although at this stage there is little concrete action for employers to take, businesses may well be inclined to respond to the consultation.”
Tim Thomas, head of employment policy at manufacturers’ organisation EEF, added: “Businesses will want to ensure that the data they publish on any gender pay gap is not confused with equal pay, with the difference between the two not always obvious and the UK already having had equal pay legislation since 1970.
“Government will need to implement the new rules in a flexible way allowing employers to demonstrate the action they are taking to address any gender pay gap and allow businesses the time to work with their employees to tackle the complex issues surrounding gender pay.”
Kathryn Nawrockyi, gender equality director at Business in the Community, added: “We welcome the government’s intent to close the gender pay gap and will be contributing to the Section 78 consultation along with our member companies.
”We know from our research that while [organisations] that carry out gender pay audits are more likely to have higher numbers of female managers, one in five organisations has never conducted one. It is critical that all employers committed to gender equality undertake a pay audit. We will continue to encourage all employers to get ahead of the Section 78 legislation by carrying out a gender pay audit at all levels of their organisation so that they can set out clear steps on how to close pay gaps that do exist.
“All of this has huge potential to make a difference, so it ultimately comes down to workplace cultures. These must evolve in parallel with legislation and news ways of thinking, so that business practices like flexible working and shared parental leave are normalised. This way we are ensuring that no one, man or woman, suffers from pay or career penalties as a result of parenthood or their gender.”
The consultation will close on 6 September.