Companies that fail to meet the gender pay gap reporting deadline of 4 April will be given a six-month reprieve before any enforcement action is taken against them.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said companies should report by the deadline if possible, but confirmed it would not begin enforcement proceedings until 4 October.
The gender pay gap service has been in place since 2017. Reporting in 2019 revealed that eight out of 10 British companies paid men more than women.
Kishwer Falkner, the EHRC chair, said the approach was designed to strike “the right balance between supporting businesses still impacted by the pandemic and making sure employers comply with the law”.
She added: “We know employers take gender pay gap reporting seriously and 6,000 organisations managed to report their data last year while reacting to the effects of Covid-19. It is not just the law but the right thing to do for their staff, demonstrating a commitment to all their female employees, which is why organisations like the CBI have supported our decision to recommence reporting and enforcement.”
Felicia Willow, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, welcomed the news that companies would have to report their gender pay gaps for 2020-21.
“The UK has a persistent gender pay gap that won’t be closed by inaction,” she said. “Large employers must continue to scrutinise their gender pay gaps and take action in order that they can be closed. We recognise that the pandemic has affected many employers, but gender pay gap reporting is good for business. We therefore hope that there will be no further delays in enforcement after this year.”
UK risks ‘turning clock back’ on gender equality in pandemicRead more
Campaigners, gender equality experts and business leaders have raised fears that women’s progress in the workforce could be stymied as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The women and equalities select committee recommended that gender pay gap reporting be urgently reinstated, and said the government’s response to the pandemic risked further entrenching gender inequality in the economy.
Research has shown that women bore the brunt of extra childcare during the initial coronavirus lockdown and are being disproportionately affected by the economic fallout.
Mandu Reid, the leader of the Women’s Equality party, said it was time for “more decisive corrective action, not less”, adding: “The pressures of home schooling and other unpaid care have had a monumental impact on women’s employment, and industries where women dominate have been hardest hit. Without proper support or protections from government, women are now facing redundancy or being forced to reduce their hours or quit.”
The TUC’s general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said that delaying gender pay gap reporting for six months was unnecessary and the move sent “a worrying message” about the importance given to gender equality.
“There is nothing to stop bosses reporting in March as usual – and hopefully good employers will still do this,” she said. “Now is not the time to turn our backs on equality. Women have lost out on pay and had to cut their hours in the pandemic. It’s vital that employers analyse their pay gaps and take immediate action to close them. Unnecessary delay risks turning the clock back.
“This decision sends a worrying message about the importance given to gender equality. It must not be seen as a nice addition when times are good that can be shelved when the going gets tough.”
An Equality Hub spokesperson said the government was fully committed to women’s economic empowerment but, given the impact on the pandemic on businesses, extending the deadline by six months was the correct decision.
“This is why we’ve set out a strong offer of pandemic support, including help for the sectors that women are more likely to be employed in, protection for female led startups and childcare support,” said the spokesperson. “Lots of positive work has been done by employers to encourage equality in the workplace, and ONS figures show that the gender pay gap stands at a record low.”