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Cath Everett

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Group call for government support on equal pay research

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An employers’ membership group has called on the government to support organisations in collecting, analysing and publishing pay data in order to help them get to grips with tackling the ongoing gender divide.

The move came in response to recommendations published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) around the government’s pay reporting and equality Bill. The Bill includes a reserve power that could lead to organisations being legally obliged to report on pay gaps by 2013.
 
In anticipation of any such mandate, the EHRC advised employers to undertake voluntary reporting before this date and outlined a series of measures to help them do so.
 
But Claire Reynolds, policy advisor at Opportunity Now, which seeks to promote women’s rights in the workplace, warned: “If these recommendations are to be successfully taken up by employers, it is vital that clear guidance and practical and pragmatic assistance is provided.”
 
Collecting and publishing pay data required business commitment, time and resources, she added, and as a result, “we would urge the government to ensure that employers are adequately supported”.
 
To gain a clear understanding of what was happening internally and ensure transparency, organisations needed to mine and publish their data as part of a pay audit to enable them to tackle any problems effectively.
 
“Ask any employer whether they have equal pay and you will be met with an emphatic ‘yes!’. But if they haven’t carried out a pay audit or examined their data, then how do they know?” Reynolds said.
 
Equal pay claims now comprise one third of all employment tribunal cases and latest figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) indicated that males in the private sector earn 28.8 % more per hour than their female counterparts.
 
Elsewhere, a recruitment firm has urged women to take advantage of a rise in part-time employment resulting from the recession. ONS data released last week indicated that the number of unemployed women in the UK had risen by 13,000 to 949,000 during August and October last year.
 
But Natalie Alexander, partner at Cheshire-based Alexander Hancock, said: “Unemployment isn’t a gender issue – after all, who would dare make a woman redundant over a man these days? Of course, it’s about finding the right person for the job, but often women have the edge, just because they’re prepared to be more flexible.”
 
There was a current trend among companies to make middle managers redundant and such roles were more frequently held by men. “But when things pick up, they recruit for lower-level roles, which women are more likely to hold, so there is reason to be optimistic for women looking for work.”

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