Gary Burchell/Getty Contributor
Employers will be named and shamed on social media if they fail to comply with the government’s updated gender pay gap reporting regime, it was announced yesterday.
The Equality and Human Rights Commissioned unveiled an enforcement policy saying that it would publish compliance rates that publicly shamed employers who were deemed not to have met targets.
The commission set out a proposed menu of formal sanctions – including unlimited fines and costs awards – if informal compliance measures failed. “The steps to formal compliance are invasive and will require compliance over a specified time period in order to avoid the financial penalty,” Emma Bartlett, a partner at the City of London law firm Charles Russell Speechlys, warned.
Lawyers said that it appeared that the commission was determined to achieve a high level of compliance by raising awareness of the obligations. That process, suggested Bartlett, “will no doubt include calling out employers who are obviously not complying, the so-called naming and shaming of defaulting employers or those paying only lip service to the reporting requirements”.
In its announcement the commission proposed being able to investigate suspected breaches of the regulations by private and voluntary sector employers and offer them the opportunity to enter into a formal agreement to comply as an alternative to continuing with the investigation.
The commission also proposed being able to issue “unlawful act notices” against employers who do not accept the offer of an agreement and who are found to have breached regulations. Those notices would require employers to comply with a plan which could be enforced through court orders.
For those employers that defy court orders, the commission proposed being able to seek summary convictions and unlimited fines.
“Over 40 years since the ban on sex discrimination in pay, it is shameful that women continue to be held back,” said Rebecca Hilsenrath, the commission’s chief executive.
She continued: “The law now says employers must be transparent about pay for women, and our regulatory role is to make sure this happens. We will educate employers about their responsibilities and hope to see widespread compliance. If that doesn’t happen, we won’t hesitate to resort to our more stringent legal powers - including enforcing unlimited fines and convictions.”