The Government issued its BIS "Modern Workplaces Consultation" on 16 May 2011 . One of the topics covered is "Equal Pay". Consultation closes on 8 August 2011.
The introduction to this section of the consultation document says:
We aim to ensure that employers who have breached the law on equal pay take appropriate action to rectify the problem. We therefore propose to require employment tribunals to make an employer, who is found to have discriminated on pay, conduct a pay audit (unless the tribunal feels this would not be productive).
According to the consultation document "Equal pay audits involve comparing the pay of women and men doing equal work, investigating the causes of any potential discrepancies, and closing any gaps that cannot be satisfactorily explained on grounds other than sex". This is presumably a shorthand description as the consultation document makes it plain elsewhere that an audit would cover not only jobs which are alike but also jobs which are rated as equivalent and jobs of equal value.
Examples of the sort of situations where a tribunal would not order an equal pay audit are given – for example where a pay audit has already been conducted within the previous three years or transparent pay practices are already in place. A "small employer" exemption is being considered. If a tribunal does order an equal pay audit the employer will be required to conduct to publish the results (subject to non-infringement of data protection rules) and consideration is being given to sanctions which would be imposed if an employer fails to comply.