Gender pay gap
A new law directing firms to publish what they pay male and female staff comes into force this week in Germany iStock

A new law directing firms to publish what they pay male and female staff comes into force this week in Germany, in a bid to tackle the country's sizeable gender pay gap.

Workers will have the right to ask their employers what colleagues in similar jobs are paid from Saturday (6 January), when the Wage Transparency Act is enacted.

The law applies to firms with more than 200 employees, while companies who employ more than 500 staff will also have to publish regular salary data to show they are complying with equal pay rules.

The move is a bid to get to grips with Germany's gender pay gap which was 22 per cent in 2015, the third highest across the European Union (EU), according to Eurostat. The EU average across its 28 nations was 16.3% in 2015, which is the most recent data available.

When these statistics were published last October the EU said its overall gender pay gap is the equivalent of working women not being paid after early November, and working for the rest of the year for nothing.

EU commissioner for justice, consumers, and gender equality Vera Jourova said: "It is an unacceptable and shocking injustice that women in 21st century Europe work two months a year for free. This gender pay gap has remained the same for many years."

The new German legislation has been making its way through the Bundestag (German's parliament) since last July.

Workplace envy

Former German minister of women's affairs Manuela Schwesig said earlier that such salary transparency would be "a real breakthrough" that would help millions of women narrow the pay gap.

Germany's Federal Statistical Office claimed two key reasons for the uneven pay between the sexes were that women did more part-time work, and were handed fewer management roles.

But critics of the incoming law argue that it will create more red tape and will lead to acrimony in the workplace.

Christian von Stetten, a lawmaker from Angela Merkel's centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, said last year that some 4,000 companies would be burdened with additional bureaucracy as a result of the legislation.

"The right to demand salary information will foster workplace envy and discontent," he told German newspaper Die Welt.

Across the EU Italy and Luxembourg have the lowest gender pay gaps, with a disparity of 5.5% in 2015, while the UK has a 20.8% pay gap, the fifth highest in the European grouping.