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Slater and Gordon Calls for Re-think on Equal Pay

Slater and Gordon Calls for Re-think on Equal Pay

Concerned about pay discrimination? 50 per cent more women than men want to know how pay compares.

A poll commissioned by Slater and Gordon has found that 50 per cent more women than men want to know what a colleague of the opposite sex is paid. Forty years after Equal Pay law came into force female professionals still fear they are being undervalued by employers. These fears are justified - men are on average paid a fifth more than women and take the lion’s share (over 93 per cent) of executive director posts in the FTSE100.
The poll surveyed 3,017 adults in Great Britain and found that 66 per cent of women want to know what their colleagues of the opposite sex are paid, in comparison to only 44 per cent of men. In stark contrast, only 23 per cent of women would choose not to know what colleagues are paid.

Slater and Gordon Employment Lawyer Samantha Mangwana believes this statistic is a strong indicator that women are more concerned about pay discrepancies, but that part of the problem is a lack of transparency in the UK around salaries. Unless a woman knows she is paid less than her male peers, she cannot begin to do anything about this.
This is now set to be made worse by government legislation. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, currently before the House of Lords, proposes to repeal the right of employees to request information on pay, as well as removing other protections from Discrimination in the workplace. The Bill could become law as early as March.
Until March, employers are required to disclose pay if requested by an employee. Men and women equally have the statutory right to ask specific questions about what colleagues are paid, bonus levels and the precise reasons why there is a pay differential. There is even a standard form for these requests, and any employer who fails to respond within eight weeks, or gives false, or evasive responses, risks an Employment Tribunal ruling against them as a consequence. Yet, this is precisely what the Enterprise Bill threatens to repeal.
Minister for Women and Equalities, Jo Swinson, recently said, "Pay inequality remains a stubborn obstacle to real fairness in the workplace.” Samantha Mangwana said, “The poll indicates what we know to be true – that women want confidence they are not suffering discriminatory pay policies in the workplace. Our worry is that women don’t know how to get that information, and now the government is trying to limit access. This will make matters worse - not better. That seems entirely back-to-front to me.
“When unequal pay still persists as such a deeply entrenched problem, instead of looking for a solution, the government is pulling the carpet out from under the feet of employees by repealing their rights through the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.
“We believe that if women and men knew there are tools available to them to request information on their colleagues’ pay, they would use them. The government’s role should be to publicise how to access this information, not reduce access to make it more difficult. This government should focus on finally levelling out conditions for ordinary workers, rather than repealing existing protections, which helps no one.”

Section 138 of the Equality Act 2013 enables employees to obtain information from their employers if they are concerned about discrimination. The questionnaire process gives employees the data needed to make an informed decision about whether they have a genuine cause for concern and need to raise it further with their employer.

Samantha Mangwana is a Senior Employment Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.

For more information call our Employment Solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have over 1,200 staff and offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Milton Keynes, Bristol, Merseyside, Halifax, Newcastle, Wakefield, Cambridge and meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.