The Tories’ policy pledge to fight the “injustice” of the gender and race pay gap doesn’t go far enough, campaigners have said.
The party will commit in its manifesto to extending the Government’s pay gap reporting requirements so that businesses over a certain size must give breakdowns of pay by ethnicity, age and level of seniority.
Women in full-time work in Britain earn 13.9% less than men while Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) graduates earn 10% less than their white counterparts.
Theresa May called this “an injustice which cannot be allowed in twenty-first century Britain”.
The Tory commitment would upgrade current pay gap reporting, which obliges businesses with at least 250 employees to publish information on differences in pay between men and women by April next year.
But gender equality group the Fawcett Society said tougher penalties were needed for those who failed to report their data.
“At the moment gender pay gap reporting lacks teeth,” Fawcett chief executive Sam Smethers said.
While she welcomed the Conservatives’ pledge, Smethers said: “The gender pay gap varies for women from different ethnic backgrounds, as our research has demonstrated.
“Whoever is in charge after June 8 needs to require employers to also publish an action plan for change.
“We also need to see tough penalties for employers who do not comply.”
She also warned that “data on its own won’t change society”.
Analysis by The Fawcett Society has shown the pay gap is narrowing much slower for BAME women than white women.
For white women, it narrowed by 25% in the last 30 years, compared with just 2% for Black African women.
Smethers’ comments were echoed by Dr Omar Khan, director of racial equality think tank The Runnymede Trust, who said: “Data monitoring alone is not a silver bullet.”
He said May’s commitment didn’t go far enough and smaller businesses with least 50 employees should be required to report their pay gaps.
“Theresa May is absolutely right to call the ethnicity pay gap an injustice and we’re pleased to hear her intention to require companies to publish data to tackle the problem. This is a policy we have been advocating for some time,” he said.
But he added that getting results also required “joined-up government to unblock barriers to getting a job in the first place, progressing at work, and opening up boardrooms to diversity”.
He also said people needed better access to tribunals “to get recompense in the face of ongoing discrimination”.
Khan said companies should also publish the number of BAME staff compared with the number of white staff.
He added: “Without this, some of the data on the pay gap will lack context.
“If a company only has one ethnic minority out of 100 employers, but that one person is paid above the average wage that doesn’t mean that the employer is fair to ethnic minorities.”