35 years after the introduction of equal pay legislation, employment law solicitors are still confronted regularly with cases of women earning less than men for like work. The disparity in earnings is estimated at around 12% for full time workers.
Employment law solicitors and women’s groups have welcomed the announcement of the new Prime Minister, David Cameron this week that he supports part of a Labour law, introduced by Harriet Harman as part of the Equality Act, which may force employers to publish information on whether they pay men more than women.
Equally however, women’s groups and solicitors alike have voiced concerns that the support David Cameron has lent the potential legislation is not enough and that his party may legislate only a watered down version of equality plans.
Mr Cameron has suggested that in cases where employment law solicitors have demonstrated that unfairness is an issue in a firm at an Employment Tribunal, then that firm would be subject to a compulsory gender pay audit. This, it is claimed and hoped, would shame those firms who flout labour laws by paying women less than men as well as encouraging women to demand equal pay.
However, unlike the original plans by Harriet Harman, ministers are not expected to continue with plans for compulsory gender pay audits, except in the above mentioned cases when employment law solicitors have proved inequality.
Overall, the reaction of employment law solicitors and women’s equality groups has been mixed. Many believe that all companies should be made to publish data on gender pay. Many small businesses however, argue that to do so would be a massive burden on them.