Companies will be forced to reveal their gender pay gap

Emma Watson asks CEOs about gender equality in business

Big British companies will soon be forced to come clean about how much they pay their male and female employees.

They will have to publish detailed information about gaps in salaries and bonuses starting 2018. The plan is part of the government's strategy to put an end to gender pay discrimination.

The new rules, revealed on Friday, will apply to all companies with more than 250 employees.

In addition to publishing their average gender pay and bonus gap, around 8,000 employers across the country will also have to publish the number of men and women in each pay range.

That will help the government identify companies with the least women in their leadership.

Using all this data, the government is planning on putting together gender pay gap "league tables," so that anyone could check how companies stack up in each sector.

The government is hoping that naming and shaming firms that pay women a lot less than men in the same jobs will push them to stop the practice, because it will make it harder for them to attract top talent.

Related: Stunning lack of women in corporate leadership roles

gender pay equality british pounds

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, called the new rules "the best opportunity in a generation to close the gender pay gap."

But the group's chief executive, Sam Smethers, said the government could do a lot more to eradicate gender discrimination.

"Naming and shaming employers that do not comply is not enough ... without stronger penalties and pressure for companies to take action, those employers who are doing the right thing risk being undercut by those who won't play by the rules," she said.

Related: Why are women paying more for the same products?

Business leaders are a lot less excited about the prospect. "League tables should not be used to name and shame firms, as data will only be able to present a partial picture, particularly given factors such as the mix of part-time and full working and sectoral differences," said Carolyn Fairbairn, the director general of the CBI, a business lobbying organization.

The gender pay gap stands at 66% in the U.K., according to the World Economic Forum. That means women earn about two-thirds of what men make for similar work.

gender pay gap 2015

The U.K. is not an exception: Women are paid less than men for doing the same job in every country in the world. According to the WEF, women in the U.S. can expect to earn even less.

While the pay gap has been closing for decades, the progress has stalled in the last few years. It will now take 118 years for the economic gap between men and women to close, the WEF said in its latest Global Gender Gap report.

In the U.S., similar plans are also under discussions. President Obama announced a proposal earlier this month that would require companies with more than 100 employees to report how much they are paying their employees by race, ethnicity and gender.

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