Board-level HR key to closing gender pay gap in companies

HR must have a place at the boardroom table if employers are to tackle the
18 per cent gender pay gap, the Government’s equal pay champion has told
Personnel Today.

Denise Kingsmill, deputy chairperson of the Competition Commission, said HR has
a fund- amental role to play if the Equal Pay Task Force’s target of halving
the gender pay gap in five years is to be achieved.

Commenting on the initial findings of the Kingsmill Review on Women’s Pay
and Employment, she said, "All companies that take equality seriously have
HR on the board. But only 30 per cent of the companies I have spoken to have an
HR representative on the board – this is not enough.

"HR is fundamental to reducing the pay gap and must be firmly placed at
board level. Only by realising this can companies attract, retain and develop
women."

Kingsmill was appointed by former employment minister Tessa Jowell in April
to develop best practice guidelines on equalising pay structures and promoting
the role of women in business. So far she has interviewed 50 large companies in
different sectors. She is also calling on employers to implement voluntary
equal pay audits, work-life balance initiatives, gender databases and targets.

"Policies are not enough," she said. "Companies should have
database systems which look at trends from a gender focus. Gender targets are
also a good thing but they must be tied to corporate objectives, including
growth and performance."

But Juris Grinbergs, former member of the Equal Pay Taskforce and HR director
of Littlewoods, does not believe the proposals go far enough.

"It is a step in the right direction but it will be a struggle to meet
the five-year target without mandatory equal pay audits," he said.

Kingsmill will report her findings to trade and industry secretary Patricia
Hewitt later this year and should result in a best practice code.

The Government aims to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2009.

By Paul Nelson

Progress of equal pay agenda

February – Equal Pay Task Force recommends mandatory equal pay audits

April – Tessa Jowell commissions Denise Kingsmill to investigate
women’s pay issue

May – Government plan to speed up equal pay tribunals but rejects mandatory
audits

August – Initial findings highlight the need for gender-based targets
and work-life balance policies as well as voluntary equal pay audits.

November – Kingsmill’s report due to be published

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