Despite the Equal Pay Act being introduced nearly fifty years ago, it appears that the gender pay gap is still ever present. In light of International Women’s Day 2016, Keystone’s employment lawyers, take a look at this topical issue and provide their thoughts.

As of next year, every company in Britain with over 250 employees will be legally obligated to reveal the existing gap between the sums that men and women are paid. Recent>Michelle Last.

"I suspect the new gender pay reporting obligations will simply demonstrate what we already know: pay inequality permeates all aspects of society, whether public or private, multinational or start-up.”

Accessibility and enforcement

While existing laws and regulations may already be in place, David Jepps argues that the real issue lies in providing the right tools for women to take action against unfair pay. “The infamous recorded message of “mind the gap” often overheard at Tube stations has never been so poignant. These recent figures show that there is still a substantial pay gap between men and women. However, equal pay claims are complex and therefore expensive. They tend to be brought with the help of unions for groups of employees. Individuals are often concerned with the issue of cost as well as, potentially, further hampering their already stressed career prospects. With much lower union membership now than in 1970 paired with ongoing economic pressures, unfortunately, many female employees will be minding the gap for the foreseeable future.”

As an employer, how might I be affected by the new legislation?

The first rankings will be published in 2018. However, if you are either a private or voluntary sector employer with 250 “relevant employees” you will have to begin calculating the pay gap for your business as of 30 April 2017 and every 30 April thereafter.

Brian Palmer recognises that no right-thinking person will argue against equal pay for equal work. However, he says: “Mandatory publication of raw>Jacqueline McDermott shares her disappointment over the fact that there is still such a large gender pay gap. “I am sure this will not come as a surprise to many women. While the Government has introduced this new legislation requiring businesses to publish details of salaries and bonuses paid to male and female staff, it will not come into force for some time. It also threatens to be a fairly toothless piece of legislation as it is currently unclear how or if it will be enforced, as the Government has no current plans to impose fines on employers who fail to comply. Much more needs to be done to close the gender pay gap.”

Should we be taking a different approach?

With PwC’s findings suggesting that there is a significant link between the number of women in the workplace, particularly in senior roles, and their earnings – perhaps the UK should be taking more of a lead from its Nordic counterparts. Rather than merely implementing reporting standards for employers, a more proactive method to facilitate total social change might be the answer. Greater opportunity for women to return to the workplace after giving birth, free childcare provision and flexible working policies could all play a key role in finally bridging the gap.


This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.