Gender pay gap won’t be closed with ‘quick fix’ solutions, employers’ groups warn

A swift, one-size-fits-all approach to addressing the gender pay gap would be counterproductive, employers’ groups have warned.

The warning follows last week’s call from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) for organisations to do more to close the pay divide between male and female employees.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show women are still paid 16.4% less on average than their male equivalents, even though four decades have passed since the Equal Pay Act was introduced. Speaking on the 40th anniversary of the Act, the EHRC warned it would use its enforcement powers to address persistent problems if voluntary approaches fail.

Jean Irvine, commissioner at the EHRC, said: “The commission will shortly be issuing guidance to help businesses measure and address pay gaps. However, we have made it clear that when the voluntary approach fails, we will use our enforcement powers to address any persistent and significant problems.”

But Charles Cotton, reward adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, stressed the causes of the gender pay gap were complex, warning against “quick fix” solutions.

“A one-size-fits-all approach will not work, and could be counterproductive if employers do not see the relevance of what they’re being asked to do,” he said. “We need an integrated approach to tackle this issue, employers have an important role but they cannot be expected to shoulder the whole burden of attempts to reduce the gender pay gap.”

A British Chambers of Commerce spokesman added: “Businesses are committed to offering equal pay for equal work. We do, however, have serious concerns over any additional government regulation in this area, whether this occurs now or in the medium term. Given that businesses and government are working closely together on non-legislative solutions, the key is to avoid compulsory, tick-box exercises that add new costs and bureaucracy for businesses.”

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