Employers must address equal pay gap or face new legislation

Employers could face compulsory pay audits if the gender pay gap does not
close.

Patricia Hewitt, secretary of state for trade and industry, issued the
warning at a pay conference last week, and recommended that all employers
conduct pay reviews.

Equal pay reviews are currently voluntary in the private sector, but every
government department has been ordered to conduct one.

Hewitt said the process will be finished by the end of April, and once the
results are in, the departments will need to start righting the wrongs.
"There’s a great deal more to do," she said.

She told delegates at the Equal Opportunities Commission’s equal pay
conference in London last week that it is hoped a raft of measures – such as
equal pay questionnaires, introduced as part of the Employment Act on 6 April –
will help to close the pay gap. If they fail, the Government will look at
legislation.

"We will monitor [the changes] over the next three years," Hewitt
said. "We will look at the law again if [the measures] are not
accelerating culture change. Businesses should not be afraid of pay audits,
because treating – and paying – men and women equally can only improve a
company’s performance in the long run."

Hewitt said increases to the national minimum wage will help as women work
in the lowest paid jobs, but there must be a rise of 7 or 8 per cent this year
and next to make a difference.

Julie Mellor, chair of the EOC, also urged employers to conduct voluntary
pay reviews.

EOC research shows that the gap between women’s and men’s average full-time
pay is still 19 per cent an hour.

Women who work part-time earn 41 per cent less than men who work full-time –
the same gap as 25 years ago.

By Quentin Reade

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