Last week a government task force proposed that organisations should be forced by law to undertake regular reviews to ensure equal pay between women and men. The reaction from the CBI and the CIPD was swift. More legislation is not the answer, they said, and the extra red tape will hit companies’ competitiveness. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it.
So why is Personnel Today breaking ranks? After all, nobody has campaigned more vigorously than this magazine against unnecessary red tape and employment regulations. For evidence, look at our campaign for better regulation last year which helped bring about a government review.
Everybody agrees with the equal pay task force’s aim of achieving gender pay equality within eight years. Where they part company is on the best way to achieve this. The CIPD argument is that employers will embrace the need for pay reviews and job evaluation more willingly if the approach is voluntary. Personnel Today is aware that many HR professionals will agree with this.
So why are we backing a change to the Equal Pay Act? The Act has been in force for 30 years and the gap remains at 18 per cent. It is simply not credible to argue that those who have failed to take action will voluntarily put right in eight years what they have ignored for the past 30.
The CBI argues that there is not enough evidence that discrimination by employers is the cause of unequal pay. Yet how are we to gather evidence on the impact of good practice while employers remain under no obligation to report on how they pay male and female staff? The pay review proposed by the task force is designed to make employers take a hard look at the facts.
Before dismissing the proposal, every HR professional should look closely at the details. Any change to the law will be based on good employment practice and follow talks with employers. Companies will be allowed time to implement processes voluntarily before it becomes a statutory duty. The first phase should be a painless equality health check and the sort of exercise that should be automatic in 21st century organisations.
Yes, there are many qualifications to Personnel Today’s support for compulsory pay reviews, not least the need to