Mandatory pay audit proposals under fire

Employers and unions have criticised government proposals to introduce mandatory pay audits to help tackle the gender pay gap.

According to a leaked copy of an interim report, seen by Personnel Today, the Women at Work Commission will consider recommending the introduction of mandatory pay reviews.

The commission argues that radical measures are needed to plug the pay gap, which is more than 40% for part-time workers and 18% for full-time employees. The recommendations say “persistent differences” remain between the experiences of men and women in the workplace, despite the introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 1970.

Amicus, one of UK’s biggest unions, said that while it supported mandatory pay audits in principle, there needed to be changes in legislation to allow class actions in cases of pay discrimination.

Linda McCulloch, national equality officer at Amicus, said: “The legislation is so complex that a single case can take years. Unless we can bring class actions it is very difficult to fight pay discrimination. At the moment, the legislation isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) said it would not support mandatory reviews, despite its own research which showed that 47% of employers have no plans to carry out an equal pay audit in the near future.

Dianah Worman, CIPD diversity adviser, said: “The [government plans] may limit the impact of pay reviews and entrench the attitude that they are about fulfilling minimum requirements. They should be about thorough investigation into problems and dealing with underlying injustices.”

The CBI said that while pay audits were good for internal checks, employers should be focusing on the root causes of inequality.
CBI policy adviser, Tom Moran, said these included social factors, such as educational choices, and the careers advice that women are given before they entered the labour market. He added that the gender pay gap was not just down to bad employment policies.

Mandatory pay audits are currently being discussed by a trade and industry select committee looking into occupational segregation. Its recommendations are likely to influence any government policy.

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