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12 February 2016

Gender pay gap publishing proposal relies on public shaming

2 mins

Last year, David Cameron said that he wanted to eliminate the gender pay gap within a generation. Today, the government has published its proposed regulations which will require larger companies to publish details of their gender pay gap: the difference in pay between men and women. The proposals apply to organisations that employ more than 250 workers.

The regulations should come into effect from October 2016, the full reports will not be revealed for another two years as the companies will need to start compiling the data from April next year, to be published in 2018.

The pay gap between genders is significantly wide. In 2015 The Fawcett Society issued figures that led to 9 November being named Equal Pay Day: the day when women effectively begun to work for free until the rest of the year, given the difference in pay. It’s worth noting that a fundamental human right (Article 14) is to not be discriminated against, including on the grounds of sex. The reported 20% difference in pay highlights the fact women continue to face discrimination in the workplace.

Today’s announcement is of course a positive step towards working to eliminate the gender pay gap. The problem is that, as it currently stands, the regulations have no teeth. The company is required to report on the gender pay gap, but there are no penalties for non-compliance. Companies are not required to provide a narrative about steps being taken to reduce the pay gap or even be required to take any steps at all. Whilst some companies may be keen to explain a gender pay gap and provide details of how they are tackling it (in order to avoid damage to their reputation), adverse publicity in itself may not be a deterrent from compliance and the government should consider specific penalties for those that do not comply. This new proposal seems to rely purely on public shaming to kick organisations into gear.

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