Just one-third of large organisations have completed an equal pay review, according to research by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC).
The commission’s Equal Pay Review research found no significant increase in the number of large organisations completing a pay review in the last 12 months.
At the current rate, the government will miss its own target of having 45% of large organisations completing pay reviews by 2008, the EOC said.
The lowest level activity is in the private sector. While 61% of large public sector organisations have completed an equal pay review or have one in progress, just 39% have done so in the private sector.
Women working full-time are earning 17.1% less per hour than men working full-time, EOC figures show.
The EOC is calling for fresh action including a modernisation of sex discrimination laws to require private sector employers to take action to close the pay gap.
It also wants to see a light touch ‘equality check’ in which employers would take an overall look to see whether they had a pay gap and to identify where action might be needed. There would then be a protected ‘amnesty’ period while employers take steps to change their pay systems.
Jenny Watson, EOC chairwoman, said: “The pay gap will never close until employers check whether they have a problem. Today’s research shows that still too few employers do this. Unless the pace of change increases, the government’s target on pay reviews may be missed.”
The Transport and General Workers Union (T&G) reinforced the call for mandatory equal pay audits in the wake of the research.
“The T&G shares the concern of the EOC at the lack of equal pay audits particularly in the private sector,” said Diana Holland, T&G national organiser for women, race and equalities.
“Audits turn paper rights into equal pay. In our experience this benefits both workers and employers.”
The Women and Work Commission is currently studying the case for mandatory equal pay audits and is due to present its report shortly.