Big businesses forced to publish pay gap details between men and women
Large companies will be forced to publish details of the pay gap between men and women, British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced in a move which puts him in direct conflict with business leaders.
Mr Cameron said that he wants to "create the pressure we need for change" to help drive up women's wages and close the pay gap between men and women "within a generation".
The Confederation of British Industry, which represents employers, warned that publishing the gap in pay between men and women could be "misleading" and said it preferred a voluntary approach.
They argue that the fundamental reason for the gap in pay between men and women is "stereotypes" which deter women from pursuing higher earning careers.
Women also lose out after having children, with research having shown that women earn more than men in their 20s and 30s only to fall behind in their 40s.
The policy represents the latest in a series of clashes between Mr Cameron and business leaders after George Osborne, the Chancellor, announced a new "living wage" as part of his Budget.
Mr Cameron said that the new legislation, which applies to all companies with more than 250 staff, will "cast sunlight on the discrepancies" between men and women.
In an article Mr Cameron says: “Today I’m announcing a really big move: we will make every single company with 250 employees or more publish the gap between average female earnings and average male earnings.
"That will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up.
“This goes back to what we announced at the Budget last week. Our aim is to fundamentally rebalance our economy – to transform Britain from a high-welfare, high-tax, low-pay economy into a lower-welfare, lower-tax, higher-pay society."
In the last Parliament the Conservatives initially favoured a voluntary approach to closing the gender pay gap amid concerns about the imposition of red tape on businesses.
In September 2011 the Coalition launched a voluntary disclosure initiative which hundreds of companies signed up to. Only a handful, however, went on to voluntarily publish information on their gender pay gap.
Shortly before the election, the Coalition agreed to measures to force companies to publish information on the pay gap in a move championed by Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader.
The policy was included in the Conservative Party manifesto, and the government is now launching a consultation on a change in the law.
The Conservatives hit their previous target of having a quarter of the board positions in Britain's biggest companies filled by women.
However, women on average still earn 19.1 per cent less than men - equivalent to 80p for every pound earned by a man.
According to the Office for National Statistics, women earn 0.2 percent more than men in their 30s, only to fall behind in their 40s when they earn 14 per cent less in hourly wages.
Writing in The Times, Mr Cameron said: "This goes back to what we announced at the Budget last week.
"Our aim is to fundamentally re-balance our economy – to transform Britain from a high-welfare, high-tax, low-pay economy into a lower-welfare, lower-tax, higher-pay society. Higher pay is something we want for everyone."
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, said that the policy is the "right thing to do".