Ministers are considering plans to force companies into publishing in-depth details of their employee's salaries, ordered by gender.
In a move intended to eradicate the gender pay gap once and for all, the government is considering plans to shame companies into paying both male and female employees fairly.
Should the plans be approved, private companies will be required to publish annual figures specifying the number of male and female employees in each of their different pay grades. A 'pay inequalities' league table would then be developed from the results, designed to name and shame the companies with the largest gender pay gap.
Firms that top the table would be offered training from agencies and unions on making the workplace fairer for female employees, although this would be on an entirely voluntary basis and its implementation would not be monitored.
Surprisingly, the most recent gender pay figures released by the Office of National Statistics in November 2008 showed that the gender pay gap is actually widening. Their research also revealed that female employees working full time are paid an average 17.1% less than their male counterparts; this inequality rises to 36.6% for part time staff.
Speaking to the Guardian, deputy chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Lady Prosser welcomed the move saying:
"It's enough to give a good picture of which firms are lagging behind when it comes to equality. That's not a good image to have and those firms will just have to do something about if they don't want to be embarrassed."
Business leaders on the other hand have not been so receptive. This is despite the plan being less complex, time consuming and potentially damaging as the compulsory pay audit system the government are considering as an alternative. The latter would require companies to directly compare the salaries of individual employees to those of their male counterparts, potentially leaving them open to sex discrimination law suits.
If approved, the 'league table' amendment looks set to be implemented early this year when the new equity bill comes into effect. Solicitor general and minister in charge of the bill, Vera Baird, has already shown support for the policy.