Coronavirus: Gender pay gap enforcement delayed by a further six months

Image source, PA Media

Firms will have another six months to report on their gender pay gap before action is taken against them, the equalities watchdog has said.

Enforcement to make firms share the data was suspended for a year in March 2020 because of coronavirus.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission said the additional delay "strikes the right balance" between supporting business and the regulation.

But Labour said it was "unacceptable" and enforcement needs to be reinstated.

The gender pay gap is the difference between the average earnings of men and women.

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that the gender pay gap for all employees was 15.5% at April 2020, which means that on average women were paid approximately 84p for every £1 men were paid.

From 2017, any organisation with 250 or more employees had to publish specific figures about their gender pay gap on their website, and report the data to the government.

Employers that failed to report on time or reported inaccurate data would be in breach of the regulations and risk court orders and fines.

The annual April deadline was suspended in 2020 due to coronavirus, with the EHRC saying they would not take any enforcement action against companies.

No date had been given for the reinforcement of the regulation to be reintroduced - but now the watchdog has confirmed businesses will have until 5 October to submit their latest data before any action is taken against them.

Certainty versus consequences

Chair of the Commission, Baroness Kishwer Falkner, said: "We know businesses are still facing challenging times.

"Starting our legal process in October strikes the right balance between supporting businesses and enforcing these important regulations."

She appealed to employers to still report their data for 2020/2021 by the usual April deadline "if they can", adding: "Taking action to reduce the gender pay gap must continue.

"Reporting provides an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to gender equality, which will be more important than ever as the effects of the pandemic continue."

The move got the support of the business lobby group the CBI, with its chief UK policy director, Matthew Fell, saying employers will "welcome certainty about what they are expected to disclose and by when".

But Labour's shadow women and equalities secretary, Marsha de Cordova, criticised the move.

She said: "All the evidence shows that the pandemic is having awful consequences for women's labour market representation.

"Now is the time to be dialling up measures to protect against discrimination and unequal pay, not delaying them. "