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MPs back equal pay transparency bill

A bill to give the government powers to force big business to reveal their gender pay data was passed with an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons yesterday.

Only seven MPs, all male Conservatives, voted against the move. One MP abstained on the motion that was brought by Labour MP for Rotherham Sarah Champion, leading to a majority of 250.

Now passed, it will give more powers to implement elements of the 2010 Equalities Act in forcing firms with 250 employees or more to publish pay data for male and female staff, including any difference between the two.

An October report by the World Economic Forum revealed the UK has dropped from 9th to 26th in the gender equality rankings since 2006, with women seeing their average pay fall by £2,700 over that period.

Champion said the bill was not about "naming and shaming" companies, but rather making them focus on the reasons behind any gender pay gap that exists.

"Pay transparency places the responsibility on employers to be actively conscious of the law on equal pay and have policies to address the gap," she said.

PwC is one of very few companies that already voluntarily publishes its gender pay data. Speaking at a Grazia event to coincide with the vote, UK head of diversity and inclusion Sarah Churchman said that firms can only start to tackle inequality "if they understand what is happening" within the business.

“We know that a sizeable part of the gender pay gap is the symptom of not having enough women in senior positions, so this is an area where we are continuing to focus our efforts," she said.

"This includes introducing a range of initiatives that help all of our people achieve their potential; including board-level mentoring schemes, women’s leadership programmes and diversity training for all employees."