The area of Equal Pay is always an important issue and it is due to be a key area in employment law in 2017. The government is in the process of implementing a new initiative to try to close the gender pay gap and there are important cases due to be heard this year.
Where it began
Equal pay became a legal right in 1975 when the Equal Pay Act 1970 came into force. Since then, women have been able to claim equal pay with men (and men with women) if they are engaged in: like work; work equivalent to that of a man; or of equal value. However, a gender pay gap remains.
Brierley and Others v Asda Stores Ltd
One case set to make the news this year is Brierley and others v Asda Stores Ltd.
You may have read about this matter last year. Around 7,000 (mainly female) ASDA retail employees argue that the (mainly male) employees in the distribution depots are doing work of equal value, yet are being paid substantially more. In a preliminary hearing, the Employment Tribunal had to consider whether the retail store employees could compare themselves to the distribution depot employees in their equal pay claims.
The comparison between the roles was challenged by Asda on a number of legal grounds. One of the considerations that the Judge had to make was whether there were common terms between retail and distribution workers. It was found that there were grounds for a comparison between the two, for example the respective workers’ handbooks had strong similarities. However, Asda have appealed this finding and the appeal has yet to be heard.
Changes in April 2017
On 6 April 2017, the Equality Act 2010 will bring in further requirements (subject to parliamentary approval). These will require large employers to provide reports on the gender pay gap in their organisations. In 2016 the gender pay gap was 18.1%. The government hopes that the new initiative will help to close this divide. The affected employers shall be required to publish gender pay gap figures using average and median hourly pay. Reports shall also be required to detail the gender gap in bonus pay and at different levels of seniority within organisations and shall be published each year in April.
As the new gender pay gap initiative has yet to be introduced there are still questions as to how effective it will be. Especially as there are no sanctions for no compliance. However, it is hoped that by highlighting compliant employers there will be an incentive for employers to equalise pay. It will certainly be interesting to see the outcome of the new initiative and the Brierley case. Will they bring real change to an important issue.
If you would like to discuss any employment law questions, please call me on 0113 297 1873.