Union demands compulsory equal pay audits

Women still missing out on a fair deal at work, with gender pay gap now standing at £129 a week

The GMB union has urged the government to force employers to undertake equal pay audits following a new report which revealed that the average pay gap between male and female workers has grown to £129 a week.

The union said that, despite equal pay legislation being over 30 years old, women are still paid far less than their male counterparts.

The GMB’s national survey found that the largest discrepancies existed in London, were the average pay gap was £200 a week, while Durham has the smallest gap, paying women £50 a week less than men.

Although the government introduced equal pay questionnaires for staff last year, the GMB claimed that this procedure left employees open to victimisation and called for compulsory audits to ensure firms have fair pay structures.

The GMB pointed out that fair pay would boost workers’ morale and allow employers to avoid lengthy and expensive legal cases.

Karen Constantine, equal rights officer at the GMB, said that the veil of pay secrecy is one of the key factors in the continuing problem of equal pay,

“For too long we have seen women being paid less purely because they are women. The government’s questionnaire makes targets of women who are trying to achieve equality by putting the burden of proof on the individual.

“The only way to resolve the problem of equal pay effectively is to ensure that all employers take their responsibility seriously and conduct equal pay audits.

“There has been a marked lack of enthusiasm by employers to do so voluntarily, so compulsion is the only way forward,” she said.

The GMB’s call for compulsory audits comes on the same day as the launch of a new Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) to stamp out unequal pay.

The EOC’s own research found that although 88 per cent of women expected to earn the same as a man with the same qualifications, a vast pay gap still exists.

One in four women didn’t know what their male colleagues earned, while low-paid females were far more unlikely to be aware of their company’s pay structure.

Julie Mellor, chair of the EOC, said that we should forget about sex, politics and religion, pay is the new taboo.

“In Britain today, the whole business of pay is shrouded in mystery. And this survey also shows that if you are a woman on a lower wage you are even more likely to be in the dark on how much you should expect,” she said.

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