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Labour would create a law ensuring equal pay; Firms would be fined for failing to tackle issue.

Byline: Jonathan Walker Political Editor

COMPANIES that fail to draw up plans for ensuring men and women receive equal pay would be threatened with fines under a Labour Government, an MP says.

Shadow business minister Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle Central, said the policy would help businesses ensure they had equal pay policies in place.

She said: "It will make it a level playing field, with good equal pay polices for all companies."

Employers would not face an immediate fine if there was a pay gap. But they could face a penalty if they could not demonstrate that they had "robust" policies in place to deal with the problem.

Last year, Iceland became the first country in the world to require firms to prove what action is being taken to achieve equal pay. Analysis by the Office for National Statistics shows that the average wage for men in the North East is PS13 an hour, while for women it is PS10.40.

This doesn't always mean women are paid less for doing exactly the same work, as they may be doing different jobs.

Labour says that if it forms a government it will introduce mandatory equal pay auditing in all businesses of over 250 employees to compare the pay of men and women doing "equal work" in an organisation.

The party will also require all private and public employer who employ more than 250 employees to obtain Government certification of their equality practices.

If they fail to do so, they will face further auditing and fines.

Dawn Butler MP, Labour's shadow minister for women and equalities said: "It's time to close the gender pay gap once and for all. But to address these deep-rooted inequalities, we need action, not just audits.

"The next Labour government will require all large employers to prove how they plan to tackle their gender pay gaps and prove they are equal pay employers."

Ms Onwurah said: "We want to see robust equal pay policies. If the policies are not certified then employers could face fines."

This did not mean businesses would immediately be punished for failing to provide equal pay, but they would be expected to show they had plans to deal with the problem, she said.

And the measure would help businesses by giving them guidance on how to improve - particularly smaller firms which may not have managers with specific training in this area.

"Many small businesses tell me they don't have a human resources department. They find it difficult to know how they should be monitoring or promoting equal pay.

"These guidelines and requirements will help them. It will make it a level playing field with good equal pay polices for all companies.

"And companies that don't want to put equal pay policies in place will face fines." Employers have agreed they have more to do in order to ensure pay is fair.

CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, in a speech to mark International Women's Day, said: "2018 feels like a particularly important year. Exceptional women in every field are breaking boundaries, taking on leadership roles and providing great role models for our girls and young women. The number of women in work has never been higher, and we have equal numbers of men and women starting out as apprentices and joining graduate schemes.

"But we're not there yet. Company practices need to be more inclusive, sexual harassment needs to be stamped out, slow progress on career progression for women must be addressed, and the gender pay gap needs to be closed"


| Chi Onwurah said the move would bring a level playing field
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Publication:Sunday Sun (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 11, 2018
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