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European Equal Pay Day: employers urged to tackle gender gap

Today is European Equal Pay Day, which aims to raise awareness of the gender pay gap and comes ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March.

Opportunity Now, the gender campaign from Business in the Community, has warned employers now is the time to take action to reduce the gender pay gap.

Rachael Saunders, policy advisor at Opportunity Now, said: "It's incredibly disappointing that across the EU women earn on average 17.4% less than men, and in the UK that average is higher at 21.1%. We know that at the current rates of progress, the gender pay gap won't close until 2085.

"That's 73 more years of loss of income in work and retirement for women. In the 21st century a person's gender should not have an impact on their pay packet. If we are to be an equal and fair society we have to reduce the gender pay gap now - not wait 73 years."

"The gender pay gap is not necessarily due to direct discrimination. Pay inequality in any organisation is an indication of structural and cultural barriers to equality and diversity, with underlying issues such as job segregation, flexible working, poor career progression and career breaks at play.

"Pay audits are critical to accelerating change. Only by mining data and getting to grips with the real picture of where the discrepancies are, can businesses set about solving it.

"Opportunity Now asks businesses to quicken the pace of change by conducting an equal pay audit by 2014, putting the results of this audit in the public domain, and adopting equal pay best practice. These include corrective and preventative action and robust pay processes such as job evaluation, transparent pay and bonus systems and training for those involved in pay decisions.

"Taking a proactive approach to closing the gender pay gap is not just good for women, it is good for business. Addressing the underlying inequalities should lead to improved engagement and career progression of women, meaning that businesses are better able to retain talent."

Reducing the gender pay gap is one Opportunity Now's three campaign aims. Opportunity Now has developed Best Practice Recommendations for Equal Pay developed from exemplar work from its members that are a useful starting point for any organisation wanting to proactively address their gender pay gap.