The government is ramping up its fight against gender discrimination, announcing plans to roll out software that can monitor unfair pay discrepancies.

By Joe McDonough

Posted on March 8, 2018

French companies will have to remedy unacceptable gender pay gaps from next year.

Under plans presented by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Wednesday, companies with more than 50 employees will have software installed that can access the payroll and monitor any pay discrepancy between the male and female employees.

Despite French law having demanded equal pay for equal work for almost half a century, men are still paid on average 9% more than their female colleagues.

“The crazy thing is that it all exists in law but equality is missing in practice,” Philippe said at a meeting with unions and employers.

“Our aim is to pass from fine words to true, genuine equality.”

As Reuters reports, the software is expected to be rolled out to companies with more than 250 employees next year, and then firms with 50 to 249 workers in 2020.

“The software is not a magic wand, but it will reveal certain differences in the pay between men and woman,” Philippe added.

The software is not a magic wand, but it will reveal certain differences in the pay between men and woman.

The new system will then be launched in 2022 and there will be four times the current number of spot checks.

Companies that fail to address the discrimination within three years of a warning could then be fined up to 1% of their wage bill.

The government’s plan will be ironed out over the next month through dialogue with employers, unions and experts.

There will also be measures put in place to improve transparency including a requirement to publish gender pay gaps on company websites.

Citing Eurostat figures, the BBC notes that across the 28 member states of the European Union, the average gender pay gap is slightly higher than France’s. However, the average is blown out by countries like Lithuania, which pays its female workers 24.2% less. Neighbouring Belgium, in contrast, has a gap of just 2.5%.

Women in France took action two years ago

In 2016, women in France organised a walk-out in protest of the 15.1% pay gap Eurostat reported at the time.

Feminist organisation Les Glorieuses calculated the 15.1% to mean that women would essentially be working for free for the rest of the year after 4:34pm on November 7.

“As of 4:34pm [and 7 seconds] on November 7, women will be working ‘voluntarily’,” the organisation said in a statement.

“We call on women, men, unions and feminist organisations to join the movement… and to hold events and protests in order to make income inequality a central political problem.

“By tackling this subject, we’re showing that the gender pay gap is not just a ‘woman’s issue’’.”