In February 2016, the then Secretary of State for Education
and Minister for Women and Equalities announced the Government
Equalities Office's plan to introduce mandatory gender pay gap
reporting for employers with 250 or more employees working in
Britain in the private and voluntary sectors. The final regulations
are anticipated very soon.
It is planned that the first pay gap reporting will take place
annually from April 2017. We explained the proposals in more detail
here. The intention is that the final regulations, which are
expected to be published in October 2016, will rely on public and
reputational forces to encourage employers to minimise the gender
pay gap. Employers who do not meet their obligations to publish
will be publicly identified, and those who do publish, but whose
gender pay data shows a significant discrepancy, will risk
The UK gender pay gap is 23%, much reduced in the last 10 years.
In Scotland it is a shocking 29%. In the EU the average is
There are many reasons for the pay gap, including women working
part time, or taking time out of work to care for children or other
dependents. This can make it harder for them to return to exactly
the same work as they left. This affects career participation and
progression as well as pay. Women are also underrepresented in many
industrial sectors, meaning that business and our economy is not
realising the potential of its economic resources.
Prior to publishing to proposed regulations, the UK Government
published its response to the Consultation on Closing the Gender
Pay Gap which identified the underrepresentation, promotion and
payment of women in the UK economy and suggested ways to try to
overcome that. The Government also said it would seek to encourage
employers to try to attract talented women into challenging and
The UK Government is currently consulting on introducing
mandatory gender pay gap reporting for large public sector
employees. In Scotland, as part of the Scottish Government's
Equality Outcomes to improve the position of women in the Scottish
economy, under the public sector equality duties, public
authorities with over 150 employees have a duty to publish
information about the percentage difference between men's and
women's average hourly pay excluding overtime.
Last week, the UK Government's Women and Equalities
Committee said urgent action was needed to protect pregnant women
and new mothers from discrimination at work and to better protect
agency workers too.
Are we entering a new era of transparency in inequality? The
anticipated regulations may well increase the possibly of equal pay
and discrimination claims where employees feel there is gender bias
in the way they are treated.
Recently, we again saw the public "naming and shaming"
of employers who didn't pay national minimum or living wage.
That scheme relies on HMRC identifying non-compliance before
publication, and there are civil and criminal penalties for
non-compliance. While the planned gender pay reporting requirements
will be compulsory, and publication will be necessary from the
start, many would say that the lack of any penalty for failure to
meet the reporting obligations, and disproportionate cost of an
employee making an employment tribunal claim, mean that many
employers will not take the obligations seriously. The UK
Government has promised to keep the position under review.
We'll be reporting when the final regulations are published
in the coming weeks, and we will be discussing them in our autumn
seminars in November so will keep this on the "agender"
The material contained in this article is of the nature of
general comment only and does not give advice on any particular
matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information
in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice
upon their own particular circumstances.
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