Government plans mandatory pay audits

Mandatory pay reviews could be introduced to force companies to narrow the gap between the salaries of men and women, according to a leaked report seen by Personnel Today.

The government’s Women and Work Commission, spearheaded by trade and industry secretary Patricia Hewitt will make the call in its interim recommendations to be published next week (8 March).

The commission will argue that radical measures are needed to plug the pay gap, which is more than 40% for part-time workers and 18% for full-time employees.

Campaigners have long called for the government to compel employers to carry out such pay audits, including the government-funded Equal Opportunities Commission and the Fawcett Society, a gender campaigning group.

But the move is likely to cause concern among business groups, who will argue that compulsion would be heavy-handed and cause unnecessary red tape.

The commission will also reveal it is considering the case for “equality representatives” in the workplace to police discrimination and the promotion opportunities for women.

It also recommends enforcing a ‘gender duty’ across the public and private sectors to enhance the opportunities of women.

The commission, which will issue its final report after the general election, was set up by prime minister Tony Blair last year to look at ways of closing the pay gap between men and women, particularly women who work part time after returning from maternity leave.

The recommendations point out that while the proportion of women in employment has been rising – between 1971 and 2004, the employment rate rose from 42% to 70% – “persistent differences” remain between the experiences of men and women in the workplace despite the Equal Pay Act.

Although the gender pay gap has fallen steadily since 1970, the rate of change has slowed in recent years, according to the report. Over the next decade, 1.3 million new jobs are likely to be created with more than one million being taken by women.

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