If a problem is allowed to fester for more than three decades, surely common sense suggests that something needs to be done to solve it.
Yet 35 years after equal pay legislation was first introduced, women still earn less than men – 18% less in full-time jobs and 40% less for part-timers – and no-one has found a solution to the problem.
The unions and the Equal Opportunities Commission have pushed for mandatory pay audits. Organisations that complete successful pay audits, usually with the help of the unions, insist that it helps them to become employers of choice.
But business groups remain unconvinced, arguing that audits are too heavy-handed and don’t really deal with the root causes of pay inequality.
Radical measures are needed to narrow the gap. But will equality representatives, as recommended by the Women and Work Commission (for the full story go to www.personneltoday.com/31628.article), be the answer?
The representatives will work within companies to check salary levels, keep an eye on recruitment processes, and ensure that women are given the same promotion prospects as men.
This idea is likely to appeal to organisations which have shied away from mandatory audits for fear of the cost to the business, but want to act fairly in terms of how they pay their male and female staff.
The issue is not just about pay, of course, but about entrenched attitudes to the way women work, occupational segregation and the fact that women choosing to work part-time are often forced into roles that do not make the most of their skills (go to www.personneltoday.com/31642.article for the full story).
HR has a huge role to play in this: in recruiting the representatives, championing the case at board level, and bringing about a change in culture.
Mindful of the fact that female HR managers are paid about £8,000 a year less than their male colleagues, HR has a vested interest in making sure this pay gap does not span yet another decade.
Getting its own house in order would be a good first step.