BIS committee calls for equal pay audits in private sector

A report published today by the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee has called on the Government to take action on workplace inequality, with a key recommendation that large private sector employers should be required to undertake equal pay audits.

The report urges the Government to take steps to address the under-representation of women in some parts of the economy. These include the provision of “comprehensive careers advice” and setting targets for encouraging women into apprenticeships in sectors in which they are currently under-represented.

The report also proposes that employees should be able to request flexible working from when they first join an employer, rather than being required to have worked for six months beforehand.

As well as these recommendations, the committee’s report calls on the Government to introduce regulations under s.78 of the Equality Act 2010 requiring large private-sector employers – those with 250 or more employees – to carry out equal pay audits. In addition, it proposes that the Equality and Human Rights Commission should publish details of businesses that do not comply.

Significantly, while the report underlined the committee’s support for the voluntary approach to female representation recommended by Lord Davies, it expressed concern that the number of women appointed to FTSE 100 boards has decreased since December 2012.

The report therefore calls for the Government to “set out clear figures, and a timescale, to outline to businesses what will be done if those targets are not achieved”.

Adrian Bailey MP, chair of the committee, said: “Four decades since the Equal Pay Act, we still do not have full workplace equality. We cannot wait another 40 years. At the heart of the matter is the need for cultural change. Without this, we address symptoms rather than causes.

“The early influences children are exposed to are crucial in informing them about career opportunities. As such, the current absence of comprehensive careers advice is a matter of deep concern. The Government must develop an enhanced careers strategy, with careers advice fully incorporated in the work of both primary and secondary schools.

Bailey added: “The Government has demonstrated a welcome commitment to improving the representation of women on boards. It must now show the same commitment to addressing their under-representation in certain sectors of the economy. This should include a willingness to set targets and, if necessary, to regulate.

“Flexible working is not a women’s issue; it affects all employees with caring responsibilities. We must dispel the myth that it is problematic and cannot work.”

For more on the right to request flexible working, see XpertHR’s reference manual on the topic.

XpertHR asks if quotas are the best way to improve female board-level representation.

XpertHR’s model policy offers more information on equal pay.

Also, see XpertHR FAQs on equal pay audits.

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