New gender pay gap statistics renew union call for mandatory pay audits

Unions are again calling for mandatory pay audits after new statistics revealed the gender pay gap has not reduced significantly.

The Office for National Statistics released data which showed the existing salary gap between men and women, measured by the median hourly pay of full-time employees, narrowed by just 0.2% between 2006 and 2007.

Men earned 12.6% more than women in April this year, compared with 12.8% more in April 2006. The hourly pay rate for men went up by 2.8% to £11.96, while the rate for women increased by 3.1% to £10.46.

Although the statistics show the pay gap is at its smallest since records began, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said the findings were “unacceptable”.

General secretary Brendan Barber said: “Progress on closing the gender pay gap has slowed to a snail’s pace. It is completely unacceptable that despite making great strides at work and in education, women are still being paid 17.2% less than men.

“Greater transparency and fairness in pay systems will help employers to eliminate pay discrimination, but the voluntary approach has failed, so mandatory pay audits are needed,” he added.

The need for mandatory pay audits was echoed earlier this year by the now defunct Equal Opportunities Commission, and shadow women’s minister Theresa May.

Currently, only public sector organisations are bound under a Gender Duty to prove they are tackling equal pay, whereas the private sector has no obligations to carry out equal pay audits.

But the Institute of Directors (IoD) director general Miles Templeman said businesses should act quickly to rebut further regulation to tackle pay inequality.

Speaking on the back of the IoD Directors Rewards survey, published today, which showed the gender pay gap among directors still stands at 22% and has risen 3% from last year, said: “It is extremely disappointing that this year the survey shows that the gender pay gap is 22%. Unless we can achieve equality of opportunity in the near future, we will inevitably face further regulation in this area.

“The only way to rebut this is for business to act quickly. It is wholly unacceptable in this day and age that it appears that women in comparable positions do not receive the same rewards as their male counterparts.”

Meanwhile, the TUC welcomed the government review into extending the right to request flexible working to all parents.

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