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Employment law is an exciting, constantly evolving and ever changing area of law. There are always new rules and regulations coming into force. It is important that employees are aware of changes in their workplace rights.

This will be the first in a series of blogs relating to up and coming Employment Law changes in 2016.

The Gender Pay Gap

Early in January 2016, the Scottish Government laid regulations before the Scottish Parliament with the intention of extending the requirement on public authorities to publish information regarding to their gender pay gap and equal pay statements.

Currently only public authorities that have more than 150 employees have to publish this information. The regulations, if enacted, will require all public authorities with more than 20 employees to disclose gender pay information.

In addition, UK wide regulations are likely to be introduced by March 2016. It is thought that these regulations will make it compulsory for organisations (including private sector organisations) with 250 employees or more to publish information regarding the difference in pay between male and female employees’ pay. This will require to include all details of the gap in any bonus payments.

If such information was published on a regular basis employees, service users, consumers and the public more widely would be able to monitor an organisation’s performance on equality. Having such information in the public domain would allow the public to hold a wider range of organisations to account in respect of pay equality.

The public nature of this information has the potential to narrow any pay gaps existing within the workforce. It may also increase public confidence in organisations being able to achieve progress on pay equality. It will also mean organisations are most accountable for their action – or lack thereof – on the gender pay gap.  

The example of the private sector shows that this information is not going to be collected adequately, and published regularly, on a voluntary basis. Only by putting the requirement on a statutory footing will ensure that the information is published. This information is the first step in ensuring a more equal workplace, with a true commitment to closing the gender pay gap.

A word of caution: it remains unclear at this time whether or not such regulations will include enforcement provisions. What will happen to those organisations who do not meet the duty, or only partly meet the duty (for example, those who publish reports which are more general, lack detail or specific measures of progress on equality outcomes, or present only parts of the evidence required to enable employees to make an informed assessment of their work).  To have effect these regulations will have to be enforced in a meaningful way to have any chance of closing the gender pay gap.

Without enforcement the legislation is likely to be fairly toothless. Unless there is a consequence of failing to provide adequate information, it would be very easy for organisations to provide vague data, lacking in the detail required, to really consider the gender pay gap.

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