Gender pay inequality: cast net wider to close the gap

Simon Rhodes
Simon Rhodes

Increasing the number of businesses that have to report on their gender pay gap could be what’s needed to stamp out inequality in the workplace.
That’s the message from regional law firm Trethowans, which has welcomed the calls from MPs this week to make more businesses report on the difference between what they pay men and women.

Currently, only businesses with 250 or more employees have to publicly disclose their gender pay gaps. But this week MPs have called for the net to be widened to include smaller employers with more than 50 employees.
Simon Rhodes is a senior partner and head of employment at Trethowans, which has offices across Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset as well as a base in London. He said: “Many employers pay their staff fairly and equally, but many others don’t. Gender pay reporting would do even more good if more businesses had to report on it.”

Simon says that some smaller businesses are already self reporting even though they’re not obliged to – with 238 businesses with less than 250 employees voluntarily filing their figures by April this year. But he adds that a voluntary regime isn’t  enough and that this week’s calls to make reporting mandatory for smaller businesses would make much more of a difference to women’s pay packets.

He said: “The minimum threshold should be lower than 250 employees, but it shouldn’t be so low that the statistics give a disproportionate impression, put people off employing a diverse workforce or just add more red tape to a business that’s already drowning in it. The suggested minimum of 50 employees seems a sensible minimum level. Any higher might not capture enough pay activity.”

This week’s report by Parliament’s Business Committee said that recently published gender pay figures had ‘shone a spotlight’ on the issue of the gender pay gap. It said that the new reporting rules for big businesses were a ‘step forward’ but called for the Government to be more ambitious and force businesses with 50 employees or more to report on their figures.
Gender pay gap data published in April found that gender pay gaps of more than 40 per cent were not uncommon in some sectors. It also found that 78% of organisations had gender pay gaps in favour of men.

Simon Rhodes says that while equal pay and discrimination legislation has been around for decades, it hasn’t helped to reduce the inequality in pay. “Gender pay reporting was introduced to add a public reporting element to drive that process on,” he said. “Increasing the number of businesses that are required to publicise their figures will undoubtedly help to close the gap further in the coming years.”

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