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Addressing the gender pay imbalance

12 December 2019

Since 2017, organisations with 250 employees or more have had to publish gender pay data which often demonstrates a significant imbalance such that when it comes to pay it is said that in comparison to men, women work from 14 November in each year for free. Pre-election, all the main parties have made manifesto pledges to address this imbalance to improve work/life/family balance.

The Conservatives focus on making flexible working the default position unless employers have good reasons not to and to extend leave for neonatal care. A £1 billion fund will create more high quality, affordable childcare, including before/after school and during the school holidays.

The Greens promise to compel larger companies to undertake equal pay audits to redress inequality in equal pay for equal work, recruitment and retention practices. It will be easier to take action against employers in unequal pay cases. Home working will be incentivised with heating, electricity and Wi-Fi costs reimbursed by employers for low income workers. Employers will offer menstruation and menopausal leave to workers. For “major” companies they will impose a 40% quota for women on company boards.

To close the pay gap by their target of 2030 Labour will require employers to implement specific plans. Employers with over 250 employees will need to obtain government certification on gender equality. Statutory maternity pay will be extended from 39 weeks to 12 months and there will be a ban on the dismissal of pregnant women without approval of what is referred to as the “inspectorate”. Employers will be required to introduce a menopause policy.

Liberal Democrats will make companies with 250 plus employees publish data on gender employment levels and pay. Parental leave will be a day-one employment right and organisations will have to publish parental leave and pay policies. They pledge to ensure the provision of free childcare for working parents from nine months to school age- 35 hours a week, 48 weeks a year. For FTSE 350 companies they will push for at least 40% of board members being women.

Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrats all promise a new state body to enforce workplace rights with Labour expressly undertaking to make the state responsible for enforcing equal pay legislation.

Gender pay planning

It seems that post-election, gender pay will be a focus of whichever administration wins, and employers would be well advised to commence contingency planning now.

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