Last year we introduced groundbreaking regulations requiring employers to publish gender pay gap data. Reporting is an important first step, but what matters now is that employers actually take action. While this is not mandatory, we strongly encourage employers to publish a plan alongside their figures.
It is clear from the most recent figures that the requirement on companies to publish pay data is not making a material difference to women’s pay. With the gender pay gap at 18.4% and a quarter of a million women paid less than the national minimum wage, does the Minister agree that the Government are all talk and no action on pay equality, and that to achieve pay parity we need much tougher measures?
The gender pay gap, although completely unwelcome, is at the lowest level that we have ever seen. It is actually 9%, and the gender pay gap reporting that we have now mandated will help to drive that down. We are already seeing it very much as part of people’s conversations and I think we will see a material difference.
The response to the Government’s gender pay audit has been slow, and global banks have revealed gender pay gaps as high as 60%. Does the Minister agree that, as Labour has proposed, companies should prove that they are taking timely action to close their pay gaps—apparently it takes a year to turbocharge something—or face a substantial Government fine?
I share the hon. Lady’s outrage at some of the sizes of the gender pay gaps, but I feel that that just gives even more weight to the fact that it was absolutely right to bring forward last year’s legislation. Revealing pay gaps is exactly how we will start to get proper action.
What assessment has the Minister made of recent gender pay gap analysis showing that multi-academy trusts have some of the worst gender pay gaps in the UK?
The hon. Lady will be aware that multi-academy trusts are also covered by this requirement. We will see their reporting, which is taking place right now, and we will then assess what the consequences are, and whether additional action or influence is needed to ensure that improvements are made.
What sanctions are available if companies fail to meet their legal obligations to help to close the gender pay gap?
What is the law is that gender pay gap reporting takes place. The EHRC has the ability to take measures that can end up with fines and further sanctions. In terms of proposals for companies to actually close the gap themselves, we encourage them to put forward their own plans.
Two weeks ago, I met senior managers at the BBC and discussed the gender pay gap. It is right that the BBC continues to attract talent, but has the Minister determined whether the gender pay gap at the BBC is due to men being overpaid or women being underpaid?
The BBC certainly has a case to answer. We are aware, because it has disclosed this, that some senior male members of the BBC have addressed that by taking pay cuts. What really matters to us here, however, is that we get pay equality.
I congratulate the Government on commencing the Labour party’s legislation—section 78 of the Equality Act 2010—that requires companies to report on the gender pay gap. Does the Minister agree with Labour Members that reporting is not enough if we want to close the gender pay gap? We need mandatory action plans for companies and sanctions.
I thank the hon. Lady for congratulating the Government on doing something that Labour failed to do for 13 years. I am pleased that she welcomes the good responses that we are getting from companies in both the public and private sectors, but there is obviously more to do. I want to make sure that companies actually take action as a result. When we discuss this with them, they say that they will do that.