Large firms told to reveal pay gap
Large firms will be forced to reveal details of the gap between how much they pay male and female employees after the Government agreed to implement the measure.
The Liberal Democrats had been pushing for the policy in the face of Tory opposition, and Equalities Minister Jo Swinson said it was "fantastic news" that her party had won the "argument in Government".
The measure will be added to legislation currently going through Parliament and will come into force within the next 12 months.
The move will require firms with more than 250 employees to publish the difference between average pay for their male and female employees. Large companies covered by the legislation employ more than 10 million people across the UK.
Only five firms have published their gender pay gap under the current, voluntary approach.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: " Whilst the Liberal Democrats have made real progress in areas like shared parental leave and extending the right to request flexible working, the labour market is still stacked against women.
"It's simply not acceptable, in the 21st century, that women on average still receive a smaller pay packet than men.
"We can't wait and we can't dither. We need to sort this out now. Both Jo Swinson and I have pushed for this to happen within government for a long time. Finally, we are now in a position for the government to vote through our party's manifesto commitment for large companies to publish the difference in average pay between male and female employees.
"These measures will shine a light on a company's policy so that women can rightly challenge their employer where they are not being properly valued and rewarded."
The measure will be debated in the Lords on Wednesday, with the Government tabling an amendment to the Small Business Bill.
The move will implement section 78 of the Equality Act, which was passed under the Labour government, and could result in fines of up to £5,000 for firms which do not comply.
Ms Swinson said: " I'm delighted that Liberal Democrats in government are making large employers publish their pay gap. It will force companies to ask themselves difficult questions about how they are valuing the contribution of women in their workforce and act to address problems."
A Government spokesman said: "The voluntary approach of Think, Act, Report has led to significant progress - over 275 companies, covering over 2.5 million employees committing to analyse and take action on gender equality in the workforce. We said we would keep section 78 under review and that's exactly what we've done.
"Now we want to build on the progress we've made - and we have achieved a great deal. Under this Government the gender pay gap is the lowest ever and has virtually been eliminated for those working full time under 40.
"However the pay gap persists, so we think it's time to move forward, so we can create the conditions to ensure that there is equality in workplaces across the country."
Shadow equalities minister Gloria De Piero said: " This is fantastic news for women but why have they waited so long? Labour passed this law in 2010 but the Tories and Lib Dems ditched it. That's five wasted years when we could have seen real progress to close the gender pay gap.
"The reality is that it's only when the Government realised they would be defeated on this issue by Labour in the House of Lords that they saw the need to act."