Public sector employers who make job cuts and do not assess the impact on female workers could face a “landslide” of legal claims, Unison has warned.
The union says it will take legal action against public sector employers who do not carry out equality impact assessments before cutting jobs and public services.
It claims that cuts in the public sector will have a disproportionate effect on women, who make up a large proportion of public sector employees.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: “The battle for Britain’s public services could tie up our already overstretched legal system if employers do not carry out impact assessments.
“Despite decades of pressure from Unison, the public sector pay gap between men and women is still 21%. The pay freeze and services cuts threaten to widen that gulf even further.”
The Equality Act 2010 contains a number of provisions designed to address the gender pay gap, such as gender pay audits. However, the gender pay reporting legislation in the Equality Act will not come into force on 1 October 2010 but will be implemented at a later date.
The Act will also make unenforceable any “secrecy clauses” that prevent employees from discussing pay, with a view to disclosing differences connected to a protected characteristic, such as gender.