Although the Equal Pay Act has been in force for almost 50 years, average pay for men is still greater than for women. In 2016 on average women earned 18.1% less than men. There are various reasons for this such as unconscious stereotyping of women and the concentration of women in lower paying jobs. The gap widens when women reach 40 or over; probably due to taking time out to care for children or an elderly relative and returning part time to reduced career prospects.
It is generally accepted that the pace of change towards equal pay is not fast enough. One measure introduced to force larger employers of 250 or more employees to address the issue is a requirement to publish the company average earnings of men and women. This data must be published on company websites and a Government website for employees, shareholders and the general public to see.
This is the first year of employers publishing their gender pay gaps. The deadline is 4 April 2018 and it will be the same date on subsequent years. Although only 4 weeks away, of the 9,000 or so larger organisations only 1,638 have complied (as at yesterday). Not surprisingly, the vast majority that have, confirm a continuing pay gap, ranging between industry sectors and companies.
There is criticism that the requirement has no ‘teeth’ because of the lack of sanctions for employers who fail to comply or publish inaccurate/misleading data. The Government may change this in the future. However, with filing their data, employers will no doubt be ramping up on initiatives to promote equality at work (amongst all disadvantaged groups) and reduce their gender pay gap and potential reputational damage in future years.
Most affected organisations will now be finalising their data but what steps should all businesses be taking now?
- Review practical steps your business is taking to reduce your gender pay gap and promote work equality. Guidance is available via resources such as the Acas website and the Government ‘Think, Act, Report’ Scheme;
- Monitor staff numbers each April if you employ close to 250 staff ( and this group will include not only employees but also some contractors and casual workers);
- Audit your practices for various disadvantaged groups not only to identify pay gaps but other areas of discrimination e.g. recruitment, successful promotion applications and tracking returners from family leave.
If you have any employment law queries in relation to the issues mentioned in this blog please contact Francesca Wild or your usual Morrisons’ adviser.