Of the 900 respondents to the survey, 90% said governments should compel companies to conduct equal pay audits.
Discrepancies between men’s and women’s pay are widespread. Full-time female employees in the finance sector receive 55% less pay than men. This increases to a 79% pay gap when bonuses are taken into account.
But, according to data from the UK Equality and Human Rights Commission, companies with more transparent pay information have lower pay gaps.
The EHRC recommended that the UK government’s Equality Bill should include a clause on conducting annual equal pay audits and publishing the results when the bill was enacted last year, but the clause was neither repealed nor enacted.
However, Elizabeth Corley, chief executive of Allianz Global Investors Europe, said reviewing distinctions on pay were part of routine good HR practice and not an issue for government intervention. She said: “If you regulate it, the risk is that it then becomes a matter of compliance rather than a matter of culture.”
Bronwyn Curtis, head of global research at HSBC, said that, while companies should be encouraged to be more transparent, she believes mandatory equal pay audits would create too much red tape for companies.
Collating gender pay gap data is far from straightforward.There are different ideas among employers about what the gender pay gap is, what measuring it involves and how to compare like for like.
These complexities leave the door open to deliberate obfuscation of the figures. Sandra Wallace, partner and head of equality and diversity for legal practice DLA Piper, said: “If employees feel they’re not being paid the same as a comparative then they can ask HR for an equal pay questionnaire.”