Women’s minister Meg Munn has insisted that equal pay audits will not be made mandatory in the private sector, despite the persistence of the pay gap between men and women.
Women earn up to 40% less than men in part-time roles, and suffer a 17% pay gap in full-time jobs compared to their male counterparts. But, 30 years on from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act, these figures are still not enough to convince the government to modernise the law on pay audits.
Munn told Personnel Today: “Pay audits are important and we’d encourage more companies to do them, but we don’t want to make them mandatory [in the private sector].
“If you make something mandatory, it just becomes a set of tick boxes – they may not absolutely be put into practice.
“What we’re saying to business is increasing equality in your organisation is in your interest – if you only employ men in the highest levels of your company or certain jobs, then you’re missing out on 50% talent.”
But Jenny Watson, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said: “Without any obligation for businesses to act, things will be slower to change.
“There should be a protected period for employers completing pay reviews of about two years, so if they had a problem, they would be exempt from claims while sorting it.”
The Women and Work Commission, set up to look at the gender pay gap issue, estimated last year that the UK economy is losing out on up to £23bn annually by failing to fully exploit the potential of the female workforce.
The government is working alongside women’s organisation Opportunity Now to promote initiatives from 100 exemplary employers, including better information for schoolgirls about career choices, and conducting equal pay reviews.