A new report has concluded that the UK is “unique in its light touch approach” as it does not require private employers to produce a plan to tackle gender pay gaps. 

A new report by the Fawcett Society and the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London (KCL) has found that the UK is lagging behind other countries when it comes to reporting on gender pay gaps.

The research found that there was only one other country in the report, Austria, which did not make it mandatory for private sector companies to submit an action plan on how they were going to tackle this gender pay gap.

Prior to this year, the UK did not make it compulsory for private sector employees to publish an action plan. Although this was meant to be instated in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant these plans were put on hold. Currently, only Wales has made it mandatory for companies to publish an action plan where gender pay differences are highlighted.

In addition, this requirement in the UK only applies to those companies in the public and private sector who have 250 workers or more. This report calls on the Government to go further and ensure smaller companies hand in data on their gender pay gap.

In October 2019, Samira Ahmed, a BBC journalist, took legal action against the BBC under the Equal Pay Act. In January 2020, an employment tribunal ruled in her favour and a settlement was reached between the two parties in February of the same year.

Laura Jones, research associate at KCL’s Global Institute for Women’s Leadership, said:

Without a requirement to produce a plan to close gender pay gaps, there is a risk that employers simply won’t take the action that is necessary.

Lowering the minimum employee threshold for gender pay gap reporting would also enable us to get a more complete picture of how women are managing through the current economic disruption, and other countries show that it can be done in a way that isn’t an extra burden for smaller employers.

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA at Skillsoft, an educational technology company, said:

Whilst progress is under way for pay equality for women, it’s by no way complete. The scrutiny faced by organisations such as the BBC for having such a huge discrepancy in gender pay scales, has brought a welcome light to this issue.
This research is a reminder for organisations to question whether they are doing their part in removing gender discrimination from the workplace. After all, gender equality isn’t just an issue for females in a business, it affects the organisation as a whole.
Women bring a different dynamic, different thinking and different strategies – so why not have equal representation of genders when it comes to the boardroom?
What can we do to speed up change? Organisations need to stand up and address this issue head on. Women should not have to question if they are being paid the same amount as a male colleague with the same role and responsibilities. If companies really care about equal pay – they should know that offering equal pay is a benefit to everyone.






Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.