Private sector employers with 250 or more employees will be required to publish the differences in pay between male and female employees, under the proposals of the Equality Bill which was published this week. Recent Government statistics report that women still earn, on average, nearly 23% less per hour than men and the gender pay gap is highest in the private sector. Closing the gender pay gap is high on the Government's agenda in introducing the new Bill, which also outlaws "secrecy clauses" in employment contracts, that stop employees from discussing their pay packages. Minister for Equality Harriet Harman is reported to have said "this is about employers coming clean with their employees".
The Equality Bill is not simply concerned with equal pay however, the Bill also:
- Allows positive discrimination during recruitment in favour of disadvantaged groups when faced with candidates who are otherwise equally qualified;
- Bans age discrimination outside of the workplace, for example, in the provision of goods, services and public functions including health and social care and some financial services such as travel insurance;
- Requires public sector employers with over 150 employees to publish annual details of their ethnic minority employment rate and disability employment rate; and
- Gives effect to recent European caselaw which outlaws discrimination by association (see my previous blog of 18 July 2008 "Landmark Win on employment rights spells hope for Britain's carers")
Some business leaders have called for a moratorium on employment law, saying that it could delay economic recovery. Employers may be reluctant to take on further employees because of the administrative costs involved in ensuring compliance with the law. Fortunately for some employers, the Bill is still in a draft stage and is not expected to receive Royal Assent until spring 2010.
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