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14

Jul 2015

Gender pay gap debate

There are now more women-led businesses than ever before, with a record number of women working, and the gender pay gap is at an all-time low - but there is more to do.

Following on from a vote in Parliament at the beginning of this year, the government is to move forward with plans to force large firms to disclose data on the gender pay gap among staff.

A consultation will start on Tuesday and look at how the new gender pay gap regulations will be implemented - including what, where and when information will be published. It will also seek views on what more can be done to encourage girls to consider the widest range of careers, support parents returning to work and help women of all ages reach their full potential and have the security of a well-paid job.

Writing in the Times, David Cameron said the new National Living Wage will play a significant role in closing the pay gap, "This will primarily help women, who tend to be in lower paid jobs," he said. "But we need to go further, and that's why introducing gender pay audits is so important."

''Today I’m announcing a really big move: we will make every single company with 250 employees or more publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings. That will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up.''

The gender pay gap is often in the press, most recently from the leaked Sony email exchanges which revealed that two female actresses were paid less then the male actors of the film ‘American Hustle’ despite the women having Oscar nominations for their roles. Another document leaked revealed that 94% of Sony’s top paid executives are male and that a female senior executive was paid less then her male colleague with the same job.

Earlier this year there was a rally outside Westminster over the frustration that the gender pay gap still exists, attended by some, who 45 years ago went on strike for equal pay at Ford Dagenham, after they were told they would be paid 15% less then the male staff. This strike resulted in The Equal Pay Act 1970 stopping less favourable treatment between men and women.

Figures released by the office of National Statistics earlier this year show the average full time salary for a man is £29,441 while women in full-time jobs earned £23,889 although the gap is the lowest since records began (9.4%). Back in 2011 the government was set a target of getting at least 25% of boardroom seats in the UK's biggest firms by 2015, recent figures released show this target has been met.

The vote in Parliament earlier this year was due to Labour MP Sarah Champion’s Bill to enact Section 78 of The Equality Act (originally introduced by Labour but abandoned by the coalition when it entered government). She proposed that large companies (250+ employees) would be forced to publish details of any gender pay gaps within their company. The bill was passed by 258 votes to 8.  Ms Champion told Sky News at the time: " I am so frustrated that equal pay still doesn't happen automatically, it is still a goal rather than a reality." I was aware that there was a pay gap, but I had no idea how big it was. The biggest thing we’ll do (today) is make women realise that there’s this massive inequality and I hope it’ll start the progress of getting it sorted out.”

Previously there had been an attempt to get companies to publish the details voluntarily but only 5 out of 7000 large companies did this. The latest plans for pay equality are not designed to ‘name and shame’ companies where there is a pay gap but enable them to see if there are any pay issues that can be resolved. 

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Contact: David Hacker