The gender pay gap is one of the most stubborn of nuts for equality campaigners to crack. Official statistics published last autumn revealed that average hourly earnings for women working full-time were 17.2% lower than for men, while female part-time workers' earnings were 38.5% lower. These statistics indicate almost no change in wage inequality since the Equal Pay Act was implemented more than 30 years ago. The government-appointed Women and Work Commission, due to report this year, is expected to recommend a wholesale makeover for equal pay laws, perhaps allowing employees to bring class actions and requiring employers to appoint 'equality representatives' with powers to demand information about salaries. The feasibility of mandatory remuneration audits is also under investigation. Meanwhile, a significant Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling has established a tougher test for employers seeking to justify paying men and women differently for equal work. Employers should systematically review their pay systems and working practices, and critically evaluate the rationale for pay differentials potentially open to challenge as discriminatory. The question is whether that will contribute to narrowing the gap.
by Michael Burd and James Davies, Lewis Silkin solicitors, e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org