March 24, 2020 / 2:23 PM / 2 months ago

UK companies given break from reporting gender pay gap due coronavirus

LONDON, March 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain on Tuesday suspended the need for companies to report on the gender pay gap in their workforces amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the government giving an assurance that this would not derail attempts to pay men and women fairly.

Since 2017 the British government has required employers with over 250 employees to submit gender pay gap figures every year in a bid to reduce the 17.9% average difference in pay between men and women, government data shows.

But the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission said they would not enforce court orders or fines for this reporting year if businesses do not meet their April 4 deadline, or March 30 for public sector organisations.

“We realise that this is an incredibly difficult time for businesses, and will not be taking enforcement action against any employers unable to report their data this year,” a Government Equalities Office spokesman said.

“This announcement does not have any impact on women’s legal right to equality in the workplace.”

More than 3,000 employers - around a quarter of expected reporters - have already submitted their data.

The move comes as many businesses continue to struggle with the effects of coronavirus, with many being forced to close indefinitely.

Businesses welcomed the move and said it would allow them to prioritise responding to the coronavirus pandemic, but companies were urged not to lose focus on gender equality when the crisis comes under control.

“When normality starts to return, we encourage employers to turn their attention back to this important agenda”, said Charles Cotton, a senior adviser for the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, a human resources professional body.

Last year, government data showed nearly half of all major British companies failed to reduce their gender pay gap the year before despite rising government pressure and public scrutiny. (Reporting by Amber Milne; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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