The gender pay gap 'needs to close'UK businesses are being encouraged to take steps to close the gender pay gap, by being provided with limited immunity if they check and publish the differences in salaries between their male and female workers.

While this will not extend to anti-discrimination cases, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission hopes that telling firms they are unlikely to be required to provide further information if they report such findings over the next 24 months could help to close this pay gap.

According to the commission, women employees in the UK continue to be paid 20 per cent less each hour ten men, although this discrepancy is wider in the private sector.

However, just nine per cent of employers report a pay gap to any members of the workforce outside the HR team, while one in five employers encourages employees not to talk about pay.

Chairman of the commission Trevor Phillips said: “Transparency is really the first step to addressing the gender pay gap. If an employer doesn’t look at their own gender pay gap, how do they address it?”

He added it made good business sense to reward staff based on merit and results, rather than gender.

However, the Independent reports the Confederation of British Industry said while the lack of women in higher-paid jobs needs to be addressed, it rejects the commission’s report and believes it has “missed a critical opportunity”.