Businesses still need to do more to tackle gender pay gap

Young Women’s Trust calls for more action to tackle the gender pay gap, as new reporting measures are implemented.

Young Women’s Trust, a charity for women aged 16-30 on low or no pay, is calling for more action to reduce the gender pay gap, as new reporting requirements come into effect in April. The charity fears that pay transparency, intended to encourage employers to reduce the gender pay gap, will be ineffective without enforcement and proper plans to tackle reported inequalities.

From Thursday 6 April, firms with more than 250 employees will be required to record pay data, ready to report on their gender pay gap in 2018. Under current legislation, there are no penalties for firms that do not comply and no obligation for them to take action to close their gaps.

Young Women’s Trust chief executive Dr Carole Easton OBE says, ‘Gender pay gap reporting is a great step forward but does not go far enough to close the gap.

The new legislation will only be effective if the government puts in place and enforces penalties for firms that fail to report their pay gaps accurately. Where pay gaps do exist, Young Women’s Trust would like to see that companies are obliged to put in place plans to reduce them.

Pay transparency alone will not change the gender stereotypes that often determine the types of roles men and women take and the industries they work in. We need action to support young women into male-dominated areas if we are to close the gender pay gap.

‘Making apprenticeships work for women, including by providing more part-time and flexible apprenticeships to help them balance work and family life, would be a great start.’

Young Women’s Trust is calling for:

· the government to require businesses to publish gender pay gap data annually according to a standard format;
· companies to publish the pay gap data broken down by both gender and age;
· the government to make provisions for enforcement to ensure companies comply with the regulations;
· the government to seek to extend the requirement to all businesses by offering support to small business to publish their own gender pay gap data;
· the government to seek to further investigate the causes of young women’s low pay and take steps to address this issue; and
· an obligation on companies to put in place plans to reduce their gender pay gap where gaps exist.

Organisations will need to start recording data from 6 April in order to report on their gender pay gap in 2018.

Further reading on gender pay gap

Preventing pay-related gender discrimination

Alan Price discusses the legislation concerning equal pay and what small businesses should be aware of.

Sexism, or sex discrimination, can take many forms in the workplace. The most obvious kind, direct discrimination, occurs when a member of one sex is treated less favourably than a member of the other sex, and the reason for the treatment is on account of their gender. Indirect discrimination refers to the situation where a rule (a ‘provision, criterion or practice’) is applied equally to everyone but that rule puts or would put, for example, a man at a particular disadvantage compared with a woman.

Subjecting a man or woman to a detriment because (s)he has done something, or it is believed (s)he has or may do something with reference to discrimination legislation is classed as ‘victimisation’, and ‘harassment’ is unwanted conduct related to a person’s sex which has the purpose of violating dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.

The legislation covering equal pay relates to all the terms under which employees of both sexes work, not just to their hourly rate. In general, the legislation requires employers to ensure that no term of the contract is less favourable to one sex than the other. The only defence to inequality is the existence of a material factor other than the difference of sex and which does not involve indirect sex discrimination. In practical terms, the defence is mainly confined to such things as justifiable service increments, the different geographical location of two similar jobs or the time the work is carried out (eg night shift working).

In order to keep on top of the situation, you should conduct a brief assessment of the pay received by your staff and address any differences in pay. There may be completely acceptable reasons for any gender difference but it is important to understand why there is a gap. The following pointers should be followed to ensure there is no unacceptable gender pay gap.

Ensure comprehensive records of pay are kept; employers with 250 or more employees will soon need to publish details on average pay received by their male employees in comparison with their female employees. Maintaining readily accessible data will make this task easier. Employers who do not meet this trigger should nevertheless keep good records of pay information in the event that it is questioned.

Ensure pay/opportunities are based on merit. Undertake recruitment and promotion based on who is best for the job and don’t be influenced by unsubstantiated perceptions.

Don’t assume that because roles are different, that they cannot be deemed as ‘like work’. Where male and female employees perform ‘like work’, there should not be a difference in pay that is not attributable to a material factor. ‘Like work’ does not need to be identical work.

You cannot enforce blanket bans on pay related conversations. An instruction to your employees not to discuss their pay with each other, where the intention of the conversation is to discover whether pay inequality exists, is unenforceable.

Alan Price is employment law director of Peninsula.

Further reading on gender equality in the workplace

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