It’s a year since the Government introduced gender pay gap reporting, requiring businesses with more than 250 employees to report annually on the difference between median male and female pay.
But there’s little sign that compulsory reporting is prompting a change in behaviour.
The latest figures show that 78% of employers continue to pay men more than women and, in the past year, the gap increased in 45% of firms.
Overall, the pay gap in favour of men was almost unchanged at 9.6%, compared with 9.7% a year ago.
Rob Johnston, Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “Employers don’t deliberately set out to pay women less than men.
“But often a gap opens when a woman takes maternity leave. Her career can lose momentum, she misses out on a promotion and perhaps she returns to work part-time in a less senior role.
“Research suggests another factor is that women find it more difficult to push their skills forward effectively at interview.
“Not only is this unfair, it is a waste of potential.”
“Cumbria has a shrinking working-age population. This makes recruitment more difficult and means it is very much in the interests of employers to maximise the potential of all their employees.
“One way to do that is to ensure that the women in your workforce get every chance to progress and make the most of their capabilities.
“We’ve assembled a selection of tools and case studies to help businesses reassess their working practices to help women progress.”
He added: “This isn’t about positive discrimination.
“It’s about creating an environment and culture that enables you to get the best out of all your employees, male or female.”
Click here to download the Government’s Equalities Office guide to closing the gender pay gap.
Click here for case studies on how businesses have tackled the issue.
Click here for Close the Gap, a Scottish charity that aims to tackle inequality in the workplace, which offers a suite of useful tools and resources.
The gender pay gap varies between sectors.
Hospitality, a big employer in Cumbria, has one of the smallest gaps but, on average, men in the industry still earn more than women. Manufacturing, another big employer here, has one of one of the widest pay gaps.
Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of the Chamber, said: “The latest figures are disappointing.
“Too few large companies have adopted a plan to address this issue. Businesses need to think about how their working practices might, unintentionally, be impeding women.
“If there is a culture where people feel they have to work long hours to get on, that is more likely to work for a man but is unlikely to suit a woman with a young family.
“Simple measures such as flexible hours and part-time working can help to retain and develop female employees.
“The issue is in part structural, with increasing movement of women into traditionally male roles worsening the picture short term as women take up entry-level roles.
“Over time this should be more than balanced out as some of them move into higher-paid positions.”