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20percent gender pay gap down to lack of knowledge - 24-02-2005
Acas has found that low levels of understanding by both employers and employees is, alongside the cost, one of the key factors holding back equal pay.

Evidence from Acas advisers on the ground confirmed that lack of information about equal pay legislation was second only to the financial implications as a reason for failure to take action on implementing equal pay.

Less than one per cent of calls to the Acas helpline are about equal pay and those demonstrate a lot of misunderstanding of what it involves.

Acas is calling for more funding to allow them to raise awareness of the issues.

Acas has 50 specially trained people who can help companies carry out equal pay reviews but not enough organisations and employees realise how equal pay claims work - the law is about sex discrimination, not about creating a fair pay system. Often company pay schemes are not transparent and so women do not realise they are being discriminated against.

The other main reason companies do not take action is the cost. The law at present says that where a company carries out an equal pay review and identifies any discriminatory pay levels the difference in pay must be put right immediately.

For smaller companies in particular this can put an unbearable strain on the company's finances. If the law were to be changed to allow organisations to phase in equal pay over a period of time many employers may be more willing to look at equal pay issues, knowing they had time to sort out the company's finances.

The findings were based on the practical experience of Acas advisers about organisational issues and were presented to the Women and Work Commission.

The gender pay gap in most sectors is at least 20 per cent.

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