Should all UK businesses be forced to reveal their gender pay gap?

Gender pay gap illustrated by banknotes flying towards a man but none around a woman

From next April, firms with more than 250 employees must calculate pay differences between their male and female workers – with league tables to be published from 2018. But should this measure be expanded to companies of all sizes? Two business influencers debate the issue of gender pay gap

Yes, says Stephen Stott, founder and CEO of Stott and May

Stephen Stott who debates the gender pay gapThe only way to achieve true equality in business is to tackle head on the issue of pay imbalance. To do so, companies must be held accountable and made to reveal any disparity in wages between men and women. It may sound obvious, but just admitting there is a pay gap in the first place is the first step towards overcoming it.

Ultimately the issue of gender inequality has largely come about because businesses have been ineffective at hiring women at graduate and junior level – the top is influenced by the bottom. By being honest and revealing the extent of the pay gap per company, businesses will be more incentivised to change their longer-term recruiting habits, perhaps even employing a 50/50 graduate recruitment scheme. This lays the foundation for equal pay from the bottom up – ultimately permeating throughout the company with time.

The way businesses measure performance needs to change – it’s often based on when people clock in and out; working hours are still taken as an indication of how hard someone is working. Encouraging businesses to address the gender pay gap in this way will help employees (and wider society more generally) understand that the number of hours worked does not correlate to the quality of work done – a common and extremely fundamental misunderstanding in the world of work. @StottandMay

No, says Kate Andrews, news editor at the Institute of Economic Affairs

Kate Andrews who debates the gender pay gapIf this government is genuinely interested in helping women to advance in the workplace, its first port of call should be to roll back its new policy that would force large businesses to publish their pay gap stats. It is near impossible to compare any two employees, even when they are working for the same company or in a similar role. Every person has a different back story: one’s education, previous work experience, skill sets and negotiation manoeuvres all play a unique role in determining his or her salary at any given time.

The government’s requirement to make thousands of companies publish the number of employees in each pay range not only ignores these distinguishing factors, but it also fails to control for hours worked – a key factor in the pay-gap debate. Without controlling for hours, the final numbers are just as likely to illustrate that someone worked flexible hours or overtime as they are to prove that a company has a sexist pay policy.

At best, this new mandate will add more faulty statistics to the debate; at worst, it will crack down on women’s bargaining power at work. It is harder to negotiate a title change or a work-from-home policy – or any other bonus that an individual might prioritse over pay – when employers are forced to rank a box-ticking exercise over the needs of employees. @KateAndrs

Gender pay gap: will disclosure tackle inequality?

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About author

Chris Maxwell

Chris Maxwell

Director’s editor spent nine years interviewing TV and film stars for Sky before joining the IoD in 2011 and turning the microphone on Britain’s business leaders. Since then he’s grilled everyone from Boris to Branson and, away from work, maintains an unhealthy obsession with lower league football.

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