The XX Factor

The U.K. Is Set to Publicly Shame Companies That Pay Women Less Than Men

Prime Minister David Cameron, here on Feb. 2, in Chippenham, England, has promised to eliminate the gender pay gap “within a generation.”

Ben Pruchnie/WPA Pool/Getty Images

A bold new data-collecting law will expose companies that perpetuate the gender wage gap in the United Kingdom, where women currently make about 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Beginning later this year, the Government Equalities Office will require businesses with 250 or more employees to report the difference between their male and female employees’ pay. The numbers will then be listed on a searchable public website, which is expected to launch in 2018.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced his intention to tackle the gender wage gap with this kind of transparency tactic last year. The new data will “cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women’s wages up,” he said. About 8,000 U.K. employers fall under the new requirement, and they’ll have to disclose their pay gaps each year beginning in April 2017. Mandatory reporting will soon extend to the public sector, too.

The new regulation requires companies to submit several pieces of data: the mean and median difference between male and female employees’ pay, the number of men and women in each quartile of the employer’s full pay range, the difference between the average bonuses paid to women and men, and the proportion of men and women who receive bonuses at all.

“There is no place for any gender pay gap in today’s society,” Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan wrote in a report on the draft regulation. “Fully capitalizing on the talent and experience of women is good for individuals, employers, and our economy.”

Last month, the White House announced a similar measure to address the gender wage gap in the U.S. As of next year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will begin collecting data on pay from all businesses that employ 100 or more people. (This category already reports on the gender and race of their employees to allow for the illumination of any hiring biases.) This new rule will serve its main purpose in internal analysis, helping the EEOC identify and investigate instances of pay discrimination. The commission will publish aggregate data in a public report in an effort to help companies evaluate their own pay practices; however, the average U.S. employee won’t be able to check on how individual companies pay their female workers, and actual cases of illegal pay discrimination will still be difficult to corroborate. The U.K.’s name-and-shame approach may not make these cases easier to prove, but the public embarrassment it begets may do more to force a sea change for pay equity than a host of lawsuits ever could.