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Gender pay equality - legal chiefs should push companies into action

A gender diversity campaigner has suggested that corporate legal chiefs should make use of pay gap reports to encourage companies to handle gender inequalities.

This is the second year in which companies with more than 250 staff have had to reveal their gender pay gaps. Figures released showed that many law firms in the City still showed a wide pay gap in favour of male staff.

Figures from Slaughter and May showed a mean pay gap across all their staff of 63.6%, with Clifford Chance at 68.9% and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer at 57.6%.

The report from Hogan Lovells showed an increase from 51.8% the previous year to 52.5% this year. However, women in the partnership have fared better than their male counterparts as women were paid 2.1% more than male partners.

Similar figures were revealed from Eversheds Sutherland. Across the whole company men were paid 58.3% more than women although the difference among partners showed 6.2% more for women.

Founder of the First 100 Years project Dana Denis-Smith stated that she would like to see the pay gap reporting results driving client buying actions. Having acquired the knowledge, taking positive action needed to follow. This is when real change would happen.

Although senior in-house lawyers may have openly stated that they now insist on diversity in the companies the work with, when it comes to gender pay gaps many lawyers find themselves working with companies who also have a gender pay gap issue.

Because of this, many lawyers were disinclined to demand change from any external legal advisers.

The reporting of gender pay gaps is the biggest legislative ruling to come into effect since the Equal pay Act in the 70’s made it illegal to pay people of opposite sexes differently for doing the same job.

Companies are likely to come under increased pressure to make inroads into narrowing the pay gap because they must reveal their gender pay gaps figures.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) released records showing that 93% of businesses were now taking affirmative action to close the gender pay gap. They were also actively encouraging diversity in the workforce. Compared to 62% of companies who took action in 2017, this is good news.

60% of companies admitted that having a diverse workforce increased their ability to attract and retain staff. This also increased the skills in the workforce.

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission more than 60% of women take a company ‘s gender pay gap into consideration when applying for a job.

Smart applicants are now putting pressure on prospective companies to show gender and diversity equality before accepting employment.

Matthew Percival, head of employment at the CBI stated that with the requirement to reveal gender pay gap figures, many companies will face real skillset problems.

Business in the Community (BITC) suggested that companies also share their reports with staff because gender pay gap reporting on its own is simply not good enough.

BITC gender equality director Chloe Chambraud stated that women in the UK want to see the gender pay gap closed in their lifetimes.

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