Blair gives blessing to gender pay gap report

Tony Blair will personally launch the Women and Work Commission report later this month with the body’s chairwoman Baroness Prosser, Personnel Today has learned.

The Downing Street launch of the long-awaited report signals the government’s intention to carry out its recommendations for closing the gender pay gap. These include the appointment of ‘equality representatives’ at all medium and large employers.

Prosser, a former Labour party treasurer, is close to Blair and is also understood to have won the support of trade secretary Alan Johnson and women’s minister Tessa Jowell. Whitehall sources said this meant the report would not be ignored in the same way as other papers, such as the Tomlinson report on education.

Prosser outlined her proposals to female ministers at a recent Westminster lunch, urging them to support her plans, which have been more than a year in the making.

The commission has rejected proposals pushed by trade unions for mandatory pay audits. Prosser’s report will instead recommend a number of softer measures and draw up guidelines for companies.

One controversial proposal outlined in the report is the introduction of ‘class actions’, as predicted by Personnel Today last year. Although the report will not call outright for such litigation to go ahead – whereby a single individual can represent a whole series of people in court for a test case against an employer, as happens in the US – it will say that the issue “should be looked at further”.

The report, which was originally scheduled for publication before Christmas, was delayed by two months because of wrangling among members of Prosser’s commission. The report was delivered to the prime minister last week.

A Downing Street source said: “It has been a difficult job to get all the members from various organisations, including unions and the CBI, to agree on a set of proposals that everyone can live with. Margaret Prosser has done a good job in achieving a reasonable set of plans that will help to reduce gender inequality and protect women, without being overly burdensome on employers.”

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