1 Oct 2010

New equality rights tackle pay discrimination

The Government introduces equality rights to help stamp out discrimination in the workplace, as Channel 4 News learns campaigners have warned the Coalition that crucial elements have been left out.

New equality rights act tackle pay discrimination (Getty)

The Equality Act comes into force today setting out new rules spanning areas such as age, disability and pay discrimination.

Provisions include a measure to stop pay secrecy clauses being used to hide unfair differences between what men and women are paid.

Around 90 per cent of the Act is introduced on Friday, making the law simpler by bringing together nine pieces of legislation under a single banner.

The Government said it will announce in due course its plans for the remaining parts of the Act, as campaigners criticised the failure to implement the changes in full.

The Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, said failing to bring in powers that would have required big business to establish whether they have a pay gap between men and women and then to act on it was “tantamount to endorsing the shocking gender pay gap”.

“It undermines every speech coalition ministers ever gave endorsing the notion of a fairer Britain”, campaigners said.

Equality Act leaves some feeling short changed
The Equality Act 2010 was one of Harriet Harman's proudest achievements and fulfilled a Labour Party 2005 manifesto commitment, writes Victoria Macdonald. It brings together nine different laws, including the Equal Pay Act, simplifying the legislation and making it easier and less bureaucratic for businesses.

Indeed, the Home Office is making a virtue of the fact that the Act is coming into effect on this date, the same day as the release of Made in Dagenham, the film about women at the Ford plant fighting for equal pay (it led to the Equal Pay Act becoming law).

But today the Fawcett Society is accusing the Coalition Government of undermining the 2010 Act by leaving out what they describe as key sections. Ten per cent of the provisions have been left out, including what the feminist organisation describes as 'the real teeth of the Act' , which was the gender pay audit. This remains, according to the Home Office website in the 'provisions the Government is still considering'.

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The change in the law coincides with the release of Made In Dagenham, a British film about the women of the Ford assembly plant in East London who, in 1968, launched a campaign to demand equal pay. Their actions led to the creation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

Last week Channel 4 News took four of the original 60s strikers to meet Home Secretary and equalities minister Theresa May.

“Thanks to pioneers like the women who feature in Made in Dagenham, the workplace is much fairer than it was in 1968. But there is still plenty of room for improvement,” the home secretary said.

“From today the gagging clauses that stop people discussing their pay with their colleagues will be unenforceable, allowing women – and men – to find out if they’re being paid unfairly.

“This move towards transparency is just one part of the Equality Act, which also makes it easier for businesses to comply with discrimination law by streamlining the equality laws, and provides more protection to disabled people.”