Equality representatives will audit gender pay differences

Employers will be obliged to appoint ‘equality representatives’ to ensure female staff are paid the same as men and are given similar promotion prospects, under the recommendations of the government’s Women and Work Commission.

But a controversial proposal to force companies to carry out mandatory pay audits has been rejected as too cumbersome by the commission, Personnel Today has learned.

The commission’s report, which was due in September, has been delayed until January due to the volume of work required, but it will recommend equality reps as a solution to cutting the gender pay gap, insiders confirmed. The wage differential between the sexes is more than 40% for part-time workers and 18% for full-time employees.

Under the recommendations, the pay commissars would be able to request information about employee salaries from companies and be able to investigate how people are chosen for the best jobs. But small businesses would escape as the recommendations will only apply to firms with more than 50 staff.

Members of the commission, who include representatives from unions, the CBI and the Equal Opportunities Commission, have agreed “in principle” that firms should appoint the equality reps.

However, Personnel Today can reveal that the head of the commission, former Labour Party and union official Baroness Prosser, is personally not in favour of equality reps. She has only agreed to the recommendation because other commission members support the idea.

Downing Street is unlikely to stand in the way of the plans to appoint pay commissars if the move is backed by the CBI.

The commission’s report will point out that since 1945 the proportion of women in employment has increased. Between 1971 and 2004, the female employment rate rose from 42% to 70%, but “persistent differences” remain between the experiences of men and women in the workplace despite the Equal Pay Act 1970. The gender pay gap has closed steadily since then, but the rate of change has slowed in recent years.

See next week’s Personnel Today for David Cracknell’s preview of the party conference season

David Cracknell is political editor of the Sunday Times and a regular contributor to Personnel Today.

Equality march fails to deliver the benefits

The gender pay gap for women managers is still high, despite the fact that they are marching up the management ladder quicker than ever.

The Chartered Management Institute’s annual National Management Salary Survey, released this week, shows that the number of women in management roles has trebled in the past 10 years to 33%.

But the average female team leader earns 36,712 – almost 3,000 less than her male counterparts. At director level the pay gap is even more pronounced, at 22,144.

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