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Labour denounces six months’ reprieve for companies on gender pay gap reporting

Marsha de Cordova MP, shadow secretary of state for women and equalities (2nd right) and Victoria Atkins MP, parliamentary under-secretary of state for safeguarding (right) join Meena Patel from Southall Black Sisters (left) and Helen Marriage, Director of Artichoke, (2nd left) to celebrate the publication of a new book Women Making History, which is being published by Artichoke this month, at Westminster in London. - Credit: PA

The Labour Party has criticised the decision to delay enforcement action against companies that fail to report their gender pay gap by this year’s deadline.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it will not begin enforcement proceedings against companies until six months after the deadline of April 4, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The news was welcomed by the government’s Equality Hub, which described the move to delay enforcement until October 4 as “the correct decision”.

However, Labour’s shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha De Cordova disagreed with the decision and pushed for the government to reinstate gender pay gap reporting sooner.

The legal requirement for businesses with more than 250 employees to report their gender pay gaps was suspended last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

De Cordova said: “All the evidence shows that the pandemic is having awful consequences for women’s labour market representation.

“Now is the time to be dialling up measures to protect against discrimination and unequal pay, not delaying them.

“With schools closed and women taking on the lion’s share of childcare responsibilities as well as young women being more likely to work in sectors shut down for almost a full year now, we need accountability and transparency on the gender pay gap immediately to avoid permanent damage.”

Commenting on the EHRC’s decision, an Equality Hub spokesman said: “The government is fully committed to women’s economic empowerment.

“This is why we’ve set out a strong offer of pandemic support, including help for the sectors that women are more likely to be employed in, protection for female-led start-ups and childcare support.

“Lots of positive work has been done by employers to encourage equality in the workplace, and ONS figures show that the gender pay gap stands at a record low.

“However, we recognise that the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on business, which is why this decision from the EHRC is correct.”

Kishwer Falkner, the EHRC chair, told the Guardian the decision to delay enforcement was designed to strike “the right balance between supporting businesses still impacted by the pandemic and making sure employers comply with the law”.

She said: “We know employers take gender pay gap reporting seriously and 6,000 organisations managed to report their data last year while reacting to the effects of Covid-19.

“It is not just the law but the right thing to do for their staff, demonstrating a commitment to all their female employees, which is why organisations like the CBI have supported our decision to recommence reporting and enforcement.”