New rules concerning compulsory pay audits have been welcomed by the Institute of Employment Rights (IER).
Under the legislation, which is part of the Equalities Bill, firms with 250 or more staff members will have to disclose how much they pay men compared with women.
The compulsory pay audits will seek to shame firms which routinely pay female staff members less and thereby reduce gender pay discrimination.
Responding to the development, Carolyn Jones, director of the IER, said: "Volunteerism doesn't work with employers. Unless they're forced to take steps then they never will."
She added that employers do not recognise that a problem exists in terms of gender pay differences.
Ms Jones went on to say that the IER has been calling for pay audits for "many years" and she hopes that the government and employers do not try to use the current economic downturn as an excuse not to act to reduce gender pay inequalities.
Claire Dawson, employment solicitor at Russell Jones & Walker, added: "Research shows that the pay gap is rising and just goes to show that the existing law isn't enough and that tougher steps must be taken to stop employers breaking the law in this way - hence the measures announced in today's Equalities Bill."