Monday 9 November 2015 marks this year’s “Equal Pay Day” – a day wholly designed to highlight the difference in pay between men and women across the country.
Falling in or around the start of November each year, statistics released in accordance with 2014’s Equal Pay Day stated that on average, women were being paid £2.53 per hour less than men, and that in general, the UK had fallen out of the top 20 countries in the world for gender equality.
The key question therefore arises - one year on (and now 45 years on from the introduction of the Equal Pay Act 1970), have we managed to encourage a change towards gender equality when it comes to our pay packets?
Whilst media attention and general publicity continues to soar in relation to equal pay rights between the genders (particularly with those in high profile roles in the film industry using their status to stress the importance of resolving this issue) the statistics suggest that the rate at which the difference between pay of men and women is only slowly becoming smaller.
According to the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings by the Office of National Statistics, there remains a 14.2% average difference between the amount of money taken home by men and women. Moreover, calculations note that at the current rate, it will take approximately 50 years to close this gap.
This is perhaps a disheartening set of statistics for those seeking to implement gender equality in the workplace. However, 2016 does hold some hope in narrowing the gender pay gap.
In the summer of 2015 the Prime Minister and the Women and Equalities Minister, Nicky Morgan announced new measures, as part of wider plans (which have not as yet been published), to address gender pay inequality and "end the gender pay gap in a generation".
As part of these new measures, any organisation with over 250 employees will now be required to publish information in relation to their gender pay gap by 25 March 2016.
This will be a legislative requirement, with section 147 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 requiring the government to make specific regulations under section 78 of the Equality Act 2010 to accommodate this obligation.
Essentially, the key purpose is to put pressure on larger organisations to avoid the gender pay issue. As such, it has been suggested that these requirements should eventually be extended to all employers regardless of business size, and this certainly seems to be supported by the government who have already expressed an intention to extend this obligation to publish gender pay data for public sector employees too.
Moreover, the government also launched a consultation on the implementation of gender pay gap reporting in July 2015. The consultation closed in September 2015 and the government's response and draft regulations are awaited.
In light of this, although the statistics remain somewhat disappointing at this stage, there is certainly a sense of optimism to be taken from the government’s recent actions, and a glimmer of hope that the gender pay gap will become smaller over a much quicker period than many initially believed.