Organisations which don’t publish their gender pay gap could face ‘unlimited fines’

Businesses failing to comply with gender pay gap reporting regulations could face unlimited fines and convictions, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

It has published its enforcement strategy on the gender pay legislation. The EHRC says that, although it will take steps to encourage compliance and engage informally with employers who are in breach of the regulations as a first port of call, it will ultimately enforce against all employers who do not publish their gender pay gap information.

The Commission’s policy – which is open for consultation from today until 2 February 2018 – explains how the Commission will use a range of its powers:

  • it may investigate suspected breaches of the regulations by private and voluntary sector employers and offer them the opportunity to enter into a formal agreement to comply as an alternative to continuing with the investigation. Such agreements can themselves be enforced if not complied with
  • it may issue unlawful act notices against employers who do not accept the offer of an agreement and who are found to have breached the regulations as a result of the investigation. These unlawful act notices will require employers to comply with an action plan which can be enforced through court orders
  • it may seek summary convictions and an unlimited fine for those who still refuse to comply with a court order.

The EHRC says similar enforcement powers exist in relation to public sector employers.

Chief Executive of the Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “Over 40 years since the ban on sex discrimination in pay, it is shameful that women continue to be held back. But change is on the horizon and it’s about time.

“The law now says employers must be transparent about pay for women, and our regulatory role is to make sure this happens. We will educate employers about their responsibilities and hope to see widespread compliance. If that doesn’t happen, we won’t hesitate to resort to our more stringent legal powers – including enforcing unlimited fines and convictions.”

Current figures calculate the gender pay gap at 18.4 per cent, but the Commission is encouraging businesses to see their company statistics as only part of the story, with their action plans to tackle them as the key.

All private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees in England, Wales and Scotland must publish information on their gender pay gap under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. All listed public sector employers with 250 or more employees in England must publish the same information under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017. Similar obligations already existed in Scotland and Wales.

Public sector employers in England must publish the required information by 30 March 2018. Private and voluntary sector employers must report the required pay gap information by 4 April 2018. This is the first year of gender pay gap reporting and is now an annual requirement by the same dates.

The publication of the consultation document comes as 20 UK government departments published their gender gap figures.  The Department of Transport has the widest gender pay gap of any government department, with women earning 16.9% less on average than male colleagues. The figures show that women are paid less than men across the civil service, with a gap of 10% in seven other departments. The lowest disparity is 3%, in the culture, media and sport department. Meanwhile, men at the new Department for Exiting the EU are paid 15.26% on average more than their female colleagues.

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