Despite incoming legislation laying out that certain companies will have to reveal their pay data by the end of March, some legal experts are now saying that these companies cannot be fined if they fail to reveal their pay gaps.
The Gender pay reporting legislation says employers with 250 or more employees must publish calculations every year showing how large the pay gap is between their male and female employees. The Equalities and Human Rights Commission warned that employers who fail to meet their obligations could face “unlimited” fines and convictions.
However Ruth Christy, an employment specialist at law firm Blake Morgan, told the Financial Times that neither the gender pay gap regulations nor the EHRC’s powers give it the legal standing to take such action.
“The government had the opportunity to introduce civil or criminal sanctions into the regulations but it chose not to do so,” says Christy. “Therefore, it is hard to see how an employer’s failure to publish the data would be a breach of the Equality Act 2010.”
“No change to the law is mentioned in the draft papers and indeed the EHRC has previously said it did not think it had the power to enforce gender pay reporting under the regulations when they were originally drafted.” Two other lawyers agreed with Christy’s viewpoint.
However Chief Executive of the Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, says that the EHRC “won’t hesitate” to enforce the law on non-compliant companies.
"The law now says employers must be transparent about pay for women, and our regulatory role is to make sure this happens,” she says. “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."