The head of Britain’s equality watchdog has warned companies that they could be pursued through the courts if they fail to report their gender pay gap.
Issuing a stark warning to the 5,000 companies that have yet to provide data on the difference between the amount they pay male and female employees, Rebecca Hilsenrath, chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said those that failed to make the deadline on 4 April “can’t row back” and would be named and shamed.
For the first time this year, all companies and public bodies with more than 250 employees are legally obliged to publish their gender pay gap, their bonus pay gap and to reveal the proportion of men and women in each quartile of their business.
“Let me be very very clear: failing to report is breaking the law,” Hilsenrath said. “We have the powers to enforce against companies who are in breach of these regulations. We take this enormously seriously. We have been very clear that we will be coming after 100% of companies that do not comply.”
Around 3,700 companies have revealed their gender pay gap on the Government Equalities website, but with only 10 days before the cut-off around 5,300 are yet to do so. Hilsenrath said 25% of the 9,000 companies that by law must report their gender pay gap before the deadline had yet to register to do so.
The EHRC will immediately write to companies that do not make the deadline. Those that continue to avoid the statutory requirement could ultimately face a summary conviction, an unlimited fine and be forced to publish the data under a court order.
“If that happens it will be the case that the company has been found to be in breach of the law and you won’t be able to row back from the publicity of that fact once the deadline has past,” said Hilsenrath.
Asked whether companies would be named and shamed, Hilsenrath said: “There will be a list and this is will made public. We will be conducting a statutory investigation and that requires us as a matter of law to publish the terms of reference. So this is going to be very public and there won’t be any way to hide the figures. Whether they are all published on the same day as 7,000 other people it won’t get you out of the problem.”
A spokeswoman for the Government Equalities Office said she could not confirm whether a list of companies that fail to make the deadline would be made public on the government portal.