Employers could try to avoid equal pay audits

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) published a consultation paper in June on the introduction of mandatory equal pay audits.

But the paper, which follows the 2011 Modern Workplaces: equal pay consultation, could have some worrying consequences, according to one employment lawyer.

Anne Pritam, an employment partner at Stephenson Harwood, said: “The government has written into the most recent consultation exercise specific exceptions to the rule when employers would be ordered to conduct an audit.

“A lot of employers will try to manoeuvre themselves into one of the exceptions in order to avoid having to carry out an audit.”

Pritam said many employers would find it hard to carry out an audit. “There could be some worrying ramifications, not least because the intention of the audit seems to be that the employer would have to disclose it to at least the people who have been audited, which could give rise to further claims,” she said.

From 2014, under the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, employment tribunals will be able to require employers that are found to have committed a serious breach of equal pay law to carry out an equal pay audit to decide whether their pay system is discriminatory.

Employers that are ordered to complete an audit would have to address any pay inequalities identified that could not be explained by reasons other than gender.

The GEO consultation closes on 18 July 2013.