Barbara Castle, who led Labour
Barbara Castle, who led Labour's campaign to introduce the Equal Pay Act

Almost 50 years ago a Labour Government introduced the Equal Pay Act, but it has been revealed that women are still paid on average over 14% less than men. The gender pay gap in private companies has also widened since last year according to today’s news. The gender pay gap measures the difference between average hourly earnings of men and women and , from April 2017, large employers across the private, public and voluntary sectors are supposed to have been publishing an audit of their pay by gender.

However, only 10% of employers have reported their figures so far and the problem is likely to be far greater. Further, stronger legislation is still required to tackle this persistent problem.

Research for the Government and Equalities Office found that, following the introduction of gender pay transparency regulations, companies have focused simply on complying with the regulations, or justifying their results and communicating an intention to reduce their gap in the future. This means that there is still a severe lack of concrete commitment to targeted actions by employers.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have said that forcing companies to report their pay gaps is not enough to eliminate pay disparities. Sanctions should be considered to tackle inaction and deliver equal pay.

I stood on a Labour manifesto that committed to all large employers being required to publish their audit and show what action is being taken to close any gap, or face a financial penalty. Without this approach I do not believe the gender pay gap will be eradicated.

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