UK companies will soon have to reveal the extent of their gender pay gap

And then we'll ring our feminist shame bells

Wage gap concept with blue figure symbolizing men and red pawn women

Considering recent figures show that on average women in the UK earn around 19.2% less than men, it’s about time something was done to kick start the closure of the gender pay gap. And today the government has announced that it plans to do so by making information around company pay gaps more transparent. It’s dangerous to have socio-economic canyons like that lying around without clearly signposting them.

In a report titled “Closing the Gender Pay Gap“, the government has outlined plans which will see UK companies with more than 250 staff legally required to publish the difference between the average pay of their male and female employees online. League tables will then compare companies and establish which companies and which sectors have to do more to eliminate inequality.

The plans arose from the government questioning 700 people (including 200 employers) and seeing that 82% of respondents thought publishing gender pay information would help encourage employers to take action.

Virgin Money said they believed that “increased transparency in this area has the potential to act as a catalyst for individual firms and sectors to review policies and practices that may hold women back from progressing in their careers and introduce training to address unconscious bias amongst recruiters and lines managers.”

The regulations will affect around 34% of Britain’s workforce, and companies will have to publish both mean and median differences in earnings with bonuses clearly outlined so that no attempts can be made to skew their results. Figures will be reported annually beginning April 2018, meaning companies will have to begin calculating the gap in April 2017.

Once the figures are published, companies will be able to offer a narrative explanation as to why their figures may not be up to scratch, but this is voluntary rather than required. We’d quite like to see companies that have performed poorly in equality figures forced to explain themselves and what they intend to do about it; it’d be a bolder approach but possibly even more effective.

Hopefully the figures that come out of this will prompt companies not doing enough to ask the right questions and move towards solutions. We don’t want to see any more women punished for demanding the right to be treated equally. Biases against women, conscious or not, absolutely exist. it’s time we shine a light on them and start stamping them out.

Image © iStock/Iculig