Swiss parliament to decide on equal pay measures

Swiss companies may be forced in future to reveal how much they pay female staff compared to men. Cabinet has presented parliament with a bill to compel firms with at least 50 employees to conduct a gender wage audit every four years, which would be made public to staff and shareholders.

The proposed law was born from political frustration at perceived corporate foot-dragging on the equal pay question. Studies have shown self-regulation to be a relatively ineffective way of imposing equal pay despite the right being enshrined in the Swiss constitution 36-years-ago.

A Federal Statistical Office survey, published three years ago, suggested that men were paid 18.9% more than women between 2010 and 2012. On Wednesday, Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga cited a lower - yet still significant - wage gap of 7.4%.

The latest World Economic Forum Global Gender Equality Report dropped Switzerland three places to 11th positionexternal link and also awarded lower marks for wage equality. Political intervention has been threatened in Switzerland for a number of years, with Sommaruga at the fore of such a move.

Initial plans to name and shame companies with a poor record of gender pay equality have been dropped from the government’s bill. But companies would still submit their findings to external audit and present them to employees and/or shareholders if it passes into law.

The final bill also exempts firms with under 50 employees because it was deemed too expensive and time-consuming for smaller firms to comply with the requirements.

While just two percent of Swiss companies would fall under the proposed new regulations, they would encompass 54% of the Swiss workforce. The proposed law has been welcomed by trade unions, but business associations have given the idea a cooler reception.