Private sector lags behind on equal pay

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Only a minority of private sector employers have carried out an equal pay review despite more than a decade of campaigns designed to persuade firms to take this step voluntarily, a survey shows.

It also found the risk of legal action was the only thing that could push some firms to undertake equal pay reviews while most employers were unwilling to publish what they found.

The XpertHR study questioned 129 organisations employing almost half a million people and found that only a third (32%) of private-sector employers had carried out, or were in the process of carrying out, an equal pay audit or review.

Although this was an improvement on the 24% recorded in a 2008, it still compared poorly with public-sector organisations where just over three quarters (77%) had undertaken an equal pay review.

It appears that only the threat of legal action would be enough to drive some employers to consider such pay reviews.

When those employers that had not undertaken an equal pay review were asked what change, if any, would lead to their organisation carrying one out, the most common responses were "equal pay claims against my organisation" (40%) and "none, my organisation would be unlikely to carry out an equal pay review under any circumstances" (30%).

Despite this, more than four out of five (82%) of all employers agreed with the statement that: "Carrying out an equal pay review is a worthwhile exercise".

The main reasons cited for carrying out an equal pay audit were to be a good employer (77%), to avoid potential tribunal cases (57%) and to improve transparency (49%) while just one organisation cited the government's Think, Act, Report campaign as a reason.

For those employers that did not plan to carry out an equal pay audit, the main reasons were that unequal pay was not perceived to be a problem (64%) and that the issue was not a priority for senior management (57%) or HR (40%) at their organisation.

Overall:

  • more than four employers in 10 (41%) (both public and private) had carried out, or were in the process of carrying out, an equal pay audit and the majority of these had done this more than once;
  • more than one in three (35%) organisations say that they had plans to carry out a review in the future or had carried out some checks for equal pay; and
  • one in four (24%) employers had no plans to do an equal pay review and had not carried out any checks for gender pay gaps at their organisation.

Other key results included:

  • Of the 53 employers carrying out a review, more than four in 10 (43%) said that no information was shared even with the employees whose pay and conditions came within the scope of the review. Just three organisations published the results of their equal pay audit externally.
  • A large majority of employers (93%) had an equal opportunities policy and more than four in 10 (43%) employers had an equal pay policy;
  • Almost three-quarters (73%) of employers carried out workforce equality monitoring;
  • Just over six in ten (63%) said there was part-time working in senior management roles in their organisation;
  • A similar proportion (61%) reported that their organisation offered maternity pay that was more generous than the statutory minimum; and
  • More than half (53%) said their organisation had policies to encourage women to return from maternity leave.

 

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