Is HR up to the task of closing sex pay gap?

The publication of the Kingsmill review of women’s pay and employment last
week showed that the Government seems to be following through with its promised
"light touch" on employment law – for the time being at least (News,
page 1). Ministers have ignored the review’s proposals to make public sector
organisations carry out mandatory equal pay reviews.

But employers resistant to carrying out reviews are not out of the woods
yet. Denise Kingsmill’s review proposes that companies should be carrying out
pay reviews as soon as 2003 to meet new requirements on company reporting. And
both Kingsmill and the CIPD have warned that the Government still has the
option of the legislative route if employers fail to put systems in place.

Personnel Today backed mandatory equal pay audits in March this year when
the idea was first mooted, breaking ranks with the CIPD and employers’ groups.
Although the Kingsmill review stops short of proposing this measure, it states
that if there is an unacceptable number of organisations not putting systems in
place "over the next few years" then the Government should legislate.
In other words, the mandatory approach is being used as a stick to get
employers to fall into line.

Nothing more graphically illustrates the scale of the problem than the
salary survey by Remuneration Economics which shows that the pay of women HR
chiefs lags behind that of male ones by 25 per cent. It would be na‹ve to think
pay reviews alone can close the gap in gender pay but they are a key part of
the solution. It is going to be down to HR to make sure systems are put in
place to make gender pay differences transparent. A good place to start would
be for HR to get its own house in order.

By Noel O’Reilly

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