Progress on reducing the yawning pay gap between men and women in the
workplace has been frustratingly slow. The well-documented 18 per cent gender
pay gap that exists, after 25 years of the Equal Pay Act, is depressing for
female staff and it is not good for business either.
No one understands this better than HR professionals who are trying to
attract, retain and develop women in their organisations.
So it is good to hear leading business figure and equal pay champion Denise
Kingsmill breathe some life into the debate, after the Equal Pay Task Force
published its findings earlier this year and then went quiet. Kingsmill’s
government-commissioned inquiry into women’s pay and employment is due to
report in the Autumn.
She has told Personnel Today (News, p1) that HR professionals are
fundamental in the quest to reduce the gender pay gap. In her initial research
among 50 companies she has been astonished at the lack of HR representation on
the board. She is right to insist that a stronger HR voice is critical to
banishing the inequality.
While this push to turn HR professionals into champions of equal pay is
welcome, Kingsmill is still toeing the Government line – no mandatory pay
audits – for fear of upsetting big businesses. But as Personnel Today argued
forcibly earlier this year, the voluntary approach is just not working. In
survey after survey employers say they do not have an equal pay problem, yet
there is little monitoring to back up these claims.
Good practice guidelines are welcome but to have any chance of meeting the
ambitious target of reducing the gender pay gap by 50 per cent in the next five
years mandatory pay audits are needed.