President Obama’s mandate that federal contractors must let their employees discuss compensation might be minor for most businesses, but the heavy lifting is yet to come.
By itself, the order has a “pretty small impact” on most businesses, said Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president of contractors’ trade group Professional Services Council — especially since it simply prohibits contractors from retaliating against discussions about pay, but doesn’t yet require them to report compensation data.
“Very, very few companies have an affirmative policy that prohibits conversation about pay,” he said, noting that smaller companies are more likely to feel the effects of the order “because of the often close working environment of their employees, whereas larger companies have a larger and often more distributed workforce, even if located in the same building or complex.”
In an attempt to discourage pay discrimination, Obama last week signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to allow employees to discuss their compensation with each other, known as “Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information.” He also signed a memorandum instructing the Labor Department to draw up regulations under which federal contractors would be required to submit compensation data by race and sex.
Once the Labor Department creates those rules — which would be used to ensure compliance with equal pay laws — Chvotkin says he expects contractors to push back. New reporting requirements could force contractors to spend money on new payroll processing systems or on new employees to collect and analyze the data. “Most company payroll systems don’t capture data that way [by sex and race],” he said.
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