National law firm urges employers to act now to close gender pay gap

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Employers are being urged to take seriously their responsibilities to close the gender pay gap.

It comes as the UK marks Equal Pay Day (Nov 10) – the day from which women will work ‘for free’ until the end of the year.

Employment specialists at leading national law firm Blake Morgan, which has offices in London, Oxford, Reading, Portsmouth and Southampton, are warning employers not to get caught out by having unfair pay practices as laws and regulations become more stringent.

Statistics show the average female worker in the UK earns 13.9 per cent less than her male counterpart - based on the mean average for full-time employees.

This translates to 86.1 pence for every £1 a man earns.  

It means that, relative to men, women are essentially not paid a penny for the remaining 50 days of the year.

Tim Forer, a barrister specialising in employment matters for Blake Morgan, said: “Although it's clear that little progress has been made on this issue over several decades, changes to the law and public pressure will undoubtedly begin to have an effect in the next few years, and employers should not leave themselves open to be singled out with outdated and unfair pay practices.

"We are awaiting new legislation that will make all employers with 250 or more employees publish information about their gender pay gap.

“That information will have to be available on their website for all to see for a period of three years. The information will also have to be uploaded to a government-sponsored website which is intended to monitor the worst-performing employers and sectors.

"Even if your organisation is not caught by the new regulations, they could mark a change for smaller employers too.

“With larger businesses publishing this information, recruitment of the best talent could be hindered or helped depending on what an employer is able to say about its gender pay gap.

“There will be businesses which use the opportunity to make themselves stand out as an employer of choice.”

The average hourly pay of a full-time female worker is £12.82, compared to £14.16 for men, according to the Office for National Statistics’ 2016 Survey of Hours and Earnings.

Tim warned that the issue was coming to the fore in both the private and public sectors.

He added: “As well as the imminent changes to legislation, recent cases also show that the threat of equal pay claims is not just an issue for the public sector as it has been in the past.

“Seven thousand female employees of Asda have just been given permission to compare their jobs and pay with male staff at the retail giant's distribution centres, in a case that reportedly could cost Asda £100 million if the claimants are successful.

“Similar cases are being brought against Sainsbury's.

“Although these cases rely on the differences in pay between jobs on female-dominated shop floors and those in male-dominated distribution centres, it is not difficult to conceive of other, smaller businesses where the predominance of jobs being done by a particular sex makes them ripe for comparison with another, separate area of the business where the jobs are predominantly carried out by the other sex. Equal pay law is not just about the same pay for the same job, but can compare 'like work' and 'work of equal value'.”

Tim urged businesses to carry out a ‘dummy run’ Equal Pay Audit ahead of the legislation’s implementation so that any issues can be ironed out before the information is published.

“Leaving it too late could well catch some businesses out,” added Tim.

“Our specialist team of equal pay lawyers and HR Consultants can help employers to do this in good time.”

Contact Blake Morgan at info@blakemorgan.co.uk or call 020 7405 2000.