Skip to main content

Government abandons pay transparency pilot

21 May 2024

On 8 March 2022, International Women’s Day, the Government Equalities Office announced that the Government would be bringing forward a pilot project on pay transparency to ‘break down barriers for women.’

Women often enter employment on a lower salary than men, this inequality can then become entrenched when pay negotiations for a new role are based on their salary history.  A study by the Fawcett Society has found that 58% of women felt they had received a lower salary offer than they would have if they had not been asked about their pay history during the recruitment process.

On announcing the pilot, the Government noted that “Evidence shows listing a salary range on a job advert and not asking applicants to disclose salary history provides a firm footing for women to negotiate pay on a fairer basis.” 

The Government set out that it was “leading the way with a pilot scheme, where participating employers list salary details on job adverts and stop asking about salary history during recruitment.”

The then Minister for Women, Baroness Stedman-Scott, said:

“The UK can only grasp its full potential by championing its brightest and best, and ensuring everyone, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to succeed.

We believe that increased pay transparency will build on positive evidence of the role information can play when it comes to empowering women in the workplace. It is essential that we keep women at the forefront of the levelling up agenda as we recover from the pandemic and rebuild together.”

On 6 March 2024, the current Minister for Women reaffirmed the Government’s plans for the pilot. Giving evidence as part of the Women and Equalities Committee’s into the impact of the increase to the cost of living on women, she explained:

“One of the things we are doing is a pay transparency pilot, because it also disadvantages women when pay bands are not advertised and they have to go in to negotiate what they think might be on offer—and men tend to be much better at that."

The Government has now announced it is abandoning the pilot. In a letter to the Chair of the Committee which the Committee is publishing today, the Minister states:

"Following careful thought, the Minister for Women and Equalities has paused work on the Pay Transparency Pilot.

We have always been clear that Government policy should be evidence-led. As you will know, pay transparency is still an emerging area, and we do not yet know whether there could be unintended negative impacts. We are aware that several countries are exploring legislative options, and therefore believe it makes sense to first learn from their experience, before taking any further action.

As you know, there are many competing demands for activity across the equality portfolio. Conscious of the best use of resources, the Minister for Women and Equalities will ensure that efforts are focussed on those areas of work where there is a clear unjust disparity."

Chair's comment

Women and Equalities Committee Chair, Caroline Nokes MP, said:

"The Government had said it is ‘leading the way’ on a pay transparency pilot to help tackle the persistent gender pay gap in this country.

"It is disappointing to learn that, two years after announcing the plans on International Women’s Day, not only has the Minister for Women and Equalities failed to deliver the promised pilot, she is now abandoning those plans altogether.

"In 2022, the Government noted that evidence supported the need for the pay transparency pilot, only a few weeks ago the Minister for Women and her officials told my Committee of the importance of the pilot. We are now expected to believe that not only is there not enough evidence to support the need for a pilot on pay transparency but that women being paid less than their male colleagues to perform the same role is not a clear unjust disparity. Rather than lead the way on reducing the gender pay gap and giving women a chance to break out of the cycle of low pay, the Government has instead chosen to sit on its hands and do nothing. I urge the Government to reconsider."

Further information

Image: House of Commons