MPs back move to expand gender diversity initiative to all sectors

Out-Law News | 23 Jan 2019 | 10:33 am | 1 min. read

A majority of MPs have backed a call to expand the government-backed Women in Finance Charter to cover all businesses in the UK.

The call was made by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) and a survey of MPs found that 54% of MPs supported the suggestion.

The Women in Finance Charter was launched in early 2016. Companies signing the charter commit to implementing measures designed to improve gender diversity, with a majority saying they are aiming for women to fill 30% of senior roles by 2021.

Other commitments firms agree to include publishing progress annually, ensuring senior executive pay is linked to delivery against internal gender diversity targets, and having a named senior executive responsible and accountable for gender diversity and inclusion.

According to the YouGov poll carried out for the AAT, only 15% of MPs said they did not support expansion of the charter to become the ‘Women in Business Charter’.

Last year research conducted on behalf of the Financial Reporting Council found that signing up to the Women in Finance Charter had had a positive effect on the quality of FTSE 350 companies’ diversity reporting.

The same research found only 15% of FTSE 100-listed companies were fully compliant with diversity reporting requirements set out in the UK Corporate Governance Code. A revised version of the code came into effect on 1 January with a renewed emphasis on succession planning and clearer diversity reporting requirements.

Employment and discrimination law expert Susannah Donaldson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "Some have argued that the gender pay gap reporting requirements do not go far enough in the sense that they only require businesses to report on their bare statistics. There is no requirement on businesses to commit to an action plan, indeed even the inclusion of a narrative, although recommended, is not mandatory."

"Extending this charter to all businesses would help to plug this gap in the GPG reporting requirements and help to create industry standards against which businesses can be benchmarked," she said.
Since 2017 all companies with more than 250 employees must publish gender pay gap data, and last year the government said the impact of the measure had been significant.