SOME “uncomfortable truths” could be revealed over the coming years as large employers are required to publish the pay gap between men and women, a lawyer has warned.

A law which came into force earlier this month requires organisations with more than 250 qualifying employees to publish figures over the next year which show the gender pay gap in their workforce.

The gap, expressed as a percentage, is the difference between the average pay received by men and the average among women.

Amy Cousineau Massey, head of employment law at Steele Raymond Solicitors in Bournemouth, said: “The idea behind the gender pay gap reporting obligations was to hold large employers to account for any disparity in the gap with a view to the gap closing.

“Conceivably, employers with a wide gender pay gap will receive both external and internal pressure to combat the pay gap. There may be some uncomfortable truths revealed over the next few years. It is also conceivable that employers could receive external pressure if their gender pay gap reporting figures are unsavoury.

“As the gender pay gap reports must remain published for three years, there will be an ability to follow an employer’s trend and this will almost certainly increase awareness and focus on pay gap inequalities.”

The UK’s gender pay gap has been monitored by the Office for National Statistics since 1997. Its statistics show that the gap is relatively narrow among full-time workers under 40, but that it then becomes much wider – possibly because of women taking time out of the workforce to care for children or elderly relatives.

Ms Cousineau Massey said employers would have to publish the total gender pay gap – both as mean and median figures. They would also have to state the proportion of men and women across four quartiles, exposing how the gap differs across different levels. They would also need to show the gap in bonuses between the sexes and the proportion of men and women who received a bonus.

A director or equivalent must sign a statement confirming the report’s accuracy.

The reports must remain published for three years, but the regulations at present do not lay down any particular sanction, other than that the employer will be deemed to have committed an unlawful act under the Equality Act 2006.