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Firms to reveal gender wages in bid to bring down 18% pay gap

Firms will deliver information on 15 million employees as the government bids to force down the gender pay gap. Credit: PA

Thousands of employers will be forced to publish gender wage figures for the first time in a bid to target Britain's pay gap between men and women, which currently stands at 18.1%.

The new regulation announced today will see every firm with at least 250 workers supply the wage data from April next year.

The move has been hailed as the "most significant" gender legal change in nearly 50 years.

The government said it hoped it will lead to firms taking action as it bids to "eliminate" the pay gap "completely".

Minister for women and equalities Justine Greening said the information on 15 million employees will help shine a positive light on firms that are "leading the way" on the equality of pay.

Minister for women and equalities Justine Greening hailed the potential of the new measures. Credit: PA

"Helping women to reach their full potential isn't only the right thing to do, it makes good economic sense and is good for British business," she said.

"I am proud that the UK is championing gender equality and now those employers that are leading the way will clearly stand out with these requirements."

The new measures were welcomed by the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, Sam Smethers, who hailed them as "the most significant legal change since the Equal Pay Act" - the 1970 legislation that sought to outlaw a bias in gender wages.

However, Equalities Minister Ms Greening was attacked by her Labour shadow, both for taking too long to bring the measures into force and for not making them tough enough.

Dagenham women strikers, led by actor Gemma Arterton, campaigned for gender pay to be published in 2014. Credit: PA

"It is shameful that it's taken the Tories seven years to bring into force this piece of equality legislation that Labour introduced in 2010," Sarah Champion said.

"It is disappointing the new reporting scheme has no enforcement system or sanctions for those employers who refuse to publish their pay gap data.

"The Government has admitted that they do not have the ability, or intention, to identify employers who do not comply. Without ensuring compliance, this new reporting system could prove toothless."

The Chartered Management Institute said its research showed while four out of five managers had witnessed gender discrimination in their workplace in the past year only two out of five challenged bias in decisions on pay.

Chief executive Ann Francke said: "We may live in more enlightened times but clearly we still have some way to go.

"Men and women have an equal role in creating a company culture that benefits all, so managers must call out any bad behaviour whenever they witness it."