The gender pay gap is simply not acceptable

Labour Party

It was announced, late last week that companies with more than 250 employees must reveal the pay gap that exists within their company between men and women.

Some 8,000 employers are affected by this and those who fail to address the gender pay gap will be named and shamed in a published league table. Employers must calculate and record the figure from April 2017 and by April 2018 the first tables will be published.

Women in the UK still earn on average 20% less than men so it’s quite clear that this must be addressed and urgently. As Labour’s shadow and equalities minister, Kate Green, pointed out if we continue at the current pace it will be another 47 years before any kind of equality is reached. It’s simply not good enough.

I hear concerns of businesses that the tables could become nothing more than a ‘box ticking’ exercise. But the reports will be detailed and businesses and organisations will be required to break these down into pay ranges which will reveal where gaps are at their widest.

Businesses will also be forced to publish their figures on their company websites and senior executives will have to personally ‘sign off’ on the annual figures.

While this announcement goes to some lengths to challenge such blatant discrimination it is a real shame that not a single figure will be released for another two years when reporting becomes mandatory.

It’s not a case of embarrassing ‘bad’ employers, as some argue, rather it forces them to consider a form of discrimination that may not even be a conscious decision for them. Not all employers are bad but it does give them a wakeup call.

Women and men must be seen as equal in the workplace and this really should be happening today. As I’ve said before, closing the pay gap is good for business it encourages talented women who may not have considered doing so before to seek to move into positions of greater responsibility.

And knowledge is power. Without these tables how else can are we able to get a true reflection of the scale of the problem and therefore look at what action is needed to address it.

The TUC wants companies who fail in this area to be fined. While this is not something under consideration in this country, the situation in France where this is in place has had un-intended consequences with some companies prepared to pay the fines instead of addressing the issue of the gender pay gap for which they are being fined.

As a first step reporting is encouraging and should be welcomed, but it may not go far enough and the biggest concern is that the gender pay gap continues to exist for many more generations yet.

A host of packages are needed to change the culture of women being paid less than men and this includes encouraging more girls to study subjects such as Maths and Science as well as introducing mandatory quotas for women on company boards, something I have campaigned for a long time. Without this change will be slow and at a pace that for many women is rightly unacceptable.