French businesses face fines for failing to tackle gender pay gap

The French government is threatening businesses with sanctions in a bid to close the country’s gender pay gap.

Labour minister Xavier Bertrand said the government planned to present a parliamentary Bill early next year, with the aim of introducing financial penalties from the beginning of 2010.

Fines would be proportional to the size of a firm’s workforce and any money collected would be “redistributed” to firms who have taken measures to promote wage equality, Bertrand added.

According to Ministry of Work statistics, in 2005 female employees earned on average almost 19% less than their male counterparts, with little or no effort made to close the gap over the past 15 years.

Despite legislation passed in March 2006 on pay equality, so far only 3% of firms have opened negotiations on the issue.

The government is banking on the threat of fines to spur companies into action.

Bertrand said the fines “would be sufficiently high to be dissuasive”, and would lead to real progress being made.

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