Commission welcomes equal pay victory for women in service-related pay case
Women in some jobs who have time off to raise children received a significant boost after a landmark case in the Court of Appeal in which the Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened.
Mrs Christine Wilson, an Inspector with the Health and Safety Executive, brought the case against her employer, claiming that its pay agreement linking salaries to length of service for up to ten years was unfair. The Health and Safety Executive’s agreement with its employees meant that three male colleagues on the same level as Mrs Wilson were paid more than her for doing equivalent work.
The Commission argued that linking pay to length of service often disadvantages women who take time out of the workforce to raise children and so do not have the same continuous length of service as men. The Court agreed with the Commission’s submissions. It found that although employers do not generally have to justify schemes linking length of service to pay, they will have to if there is evidence that this is having a disproportionate impact on women.
Susie Uppal, Director of Legal Enforcement at the Commission, said: “Women should not be disadvantaged in the workforce because they take time out for maternity leave or to meet caring responsibilities. Linking pay to length of service often does them a disservice. Direct discrimination, long hours, and a lack of flexible working options are some of the biggest barriers to achieving gender equality in the workplace.”
The UK Parliament has recognised the value of the Commission’s expertise, imposing on it the power to intervene in certain legal proceedings by virtue of section 30 of the Equality Act 2006. The Commission takes a strategic approach when deciding to intervene. It will generally intervene in cases where it can use its expertise to clarify or challenge an important element of the law. The cases generally involve serious matters of public policy or general public concern. The outcome of these cases often has a wide impact as they set precedents to be followed by the lower courts.
Gender pay gap reporting
The Commission believes that developing ways for employers to measure and report on their gender pay gap will be a crucial step towards reducing pay inequity by providing greater transparency. It is holding a consultation on how to develop a consistent way to measure the gender pay difference within organisations.
Gender pay gap reporting is intended to be voluntary, but could be made mandatory using a reserve power in the Equality Bill. A future Secretary of State could choose to use that power if progress on closing the pay gap has not been made by 2013.
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The Equality and Human Rights Commission is a statutory body established under the Equality Act 2006, which took over the responsibilities of Commission for Racial Equality, Disability Rights Commission and Equal Opportunities Commission. To find out more visit www.equalityhumanrights.com.
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