The Equality and Human Rights Commission calls for equal pay reform

The Equality for Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has called for a radical equal pay reform ahead of the government’s upcoming Equality Bill, due to be published this spring.

The EHRC, the body responsible for safeguarding equality in the UK, said that Britain’s equal pay laws are outdated and reliant on individual women bringing tribunal cases when they experience discrimination. The most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics indicate that the full-time gender pay gap has increased to 17.1%, up from 17%.

The commission has urged the government to increase transparency by ensuring employees are allowed to discuss their pay by banning ‘gagging’ clauses. It also called for larger companies to publish the number of men and women working in each pay band to help identify segregation in workplaces.

Nicola Brewer, chair of the EHRC, said: “The 1975 Equal Pay Act is no longer fit for purpose. We need to look afresh at what modern equal pay legislation should look like. The approach in the 1975 Equal Pay Act represented the best thinking at the time, and indeed helped close the gap from 29.4 per cent to 17.1 per cent. But it’s time to shift the focus to preventing problems from arising in the first place, rather than tackling them through the tribunal system after the fact. The upcoming Equality Bill is a significant opportunity to move towards a modern approach.”

Charles Cotton, reward advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), said: “We welcome this pragmatic approach from the EHRC. There is a business case for ensuring all employees are paid fairly and equally according to their skills and contribution, not their gender or any other irrelevant attributes. But this case is likely to be harmed not helped by blunt legislative measures at a time when businesses are struggling to stay afloat.”