26 June 2008 | Jake Kanter
Suppliers to the public sector will be asked to be more open about their employee pay structures to improve equality between men and women.
Today Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, launched the Framework for a Fairer Future - The Equality Bill. It aims to improve pay transparency and expose gender pay gaps.
The bill will outlaw salary secrecy clauses in public contracts and make it unlawful to stop staff discussing their pay. It does not mean suppliers will be forced to disclose pay details, but will be encouraged to allow employees to talk openly about their salaries. It is hoped this will enable women and other groups to challenge employers who unlawfully pay them less.
Harman said procurement could help deliver transparency because 30 per cent of private companies in the UK are contracted to the public sector.
But the proposals were criticised by John Cridland, deputy director of the CBI. "Public procurement can be an effective lever. But making firms that are bidding for government contracts audit their pay would be pointless and would do nothing to improve equality in the workplace."
As part of the bill the government will also work with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to carry out industry specific studies to highlight "persistent inequalities in different sectors". It will also develop a "kite-mark" scheme, designed to report a vendor's progress on equality issues.