Equality law failing to close gender pay gap

Twenty-five years on from the introduction of equality legislation, few employers have policies that actively seek to close the gender pay gap, a major report has found.

Research among 300 organisations by the Equal Opportunities Commission, exclusively released to Personnel Today, has revealed that while 68 per cent of organisations have an equal pay policy, it is having little effect.

Employers with such policies are not more likely to have adopted practices which could reduce the pay gap than others.

Government figures show that the pay gap was 18 per cent in 2000. Its solution was announced in December when employment minister Tessa Jowell outlined proposals to streamline the tribunal system for equal pay cases.

A key reason for pay inequality highlighted in the research is that although HR professionals are responsible for equal pay, they are not given enough power to drive through effective policies.

Only 18 per cent of the 300 HR managers questioned in the Gender Equality Pay Practice survey had responsibility for supervising equal pay policy. Only 9 per cent are responsible for job evaluation, a key way to tackle inequality.

HR directors reacting to the findings agree that the power to drive change is often with senior managers above the HR director. Helen Froud, director of corporate services for Worcestershire County Council, said, “HR managers can do very little without back-up of senior management.”

Bruce Warman, personnel director of Vauxhall Motors, agreed. “A dichotomy exists here. While HR managers have the most influence in highlighting equal pay, ultimately it’s the senior management who enforce the issue of equal pay,” he said.

The EOC research shows pay inequality is most prevalent in the manufacturing sector. In the public sector, 21 per cent of HR managers perform job evaluation, compared to 3 per cent in the manufacturing and service sectors.

By Karen Higginbottom

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