Gender pay reporting is overdue

THE new Government is to press ahead with the previous administration’s plan to introduce mandatory reporting by employers on the gender pay gap.

Good. Although the CBI employers’ group described the decision not to drop the measure as “missed opportunity”, such scrutiny is long overdue in view of the limited progress on gender equality in the 40 years since the Equal Pay Act.

The new Equalities Act will be introduced from October, a move in itself welcomed by the CBI as making things “clearer and simpler” for employers.

“Bringing nine separate pieces of legislation together in one place should give employers more confidence in addressing diversity in the workplace,” said Katja Hall, the CBI’s director of HR policy.

However, she added that “the Government has missed an opportunity to say it will remove mandatory gender pay reporting from the legislation.

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“Forcing companies to publish average salary figures for men and women could mislead people into thinking that women are paid less than men in the same role, which is rightly illegal, when differences will actually reflect the proportions of men and women in higher-paid jobs.”

While it is true that the published figures will need to be treated with a certain amount of caution, for the reason outlined by the CBI, it is also true that, in the broader scheme of things, the proportion of men in “higher-paid jobs” (by which the CBI presumably means “more senior jobs”) is also of great relevance for women thinking of applying for a job with the organisation in question.

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The CBI acknowledges as much, with Ms Hall warning that the policy is “likely to backfired”.

“Companies that have too few women in higher paid roles, and are trying to attract more, would be forced to publish a statistic that could deter female applicants and compound the problem,” she said.

This rather seems to assume that companies in which women are under-represented in senior jobs are the exception and that women thinking about applying for work with such firms will find plenty of more attractive potential employers to apply to instead.

In reality, this is not necessarily so. In fact, most surveys rather suggest the opposite is true, with the result that most women in the jobs market cannot afford to be so choosy as the CBI thinks they might be ? particularly at a time of high, and rising, unemployment and a shortage of vacancies.

Besides, might not the result of gender pay reporting be that more employers review their selection procedures to check for so-called “glass ceilings” which prevent female staff ? and the organisations they work for ? from achieving their full potential?

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