The debate over how the Equality Act will affect employers took a slightly surreal twist this week when a row broke out on Twitter between Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne and employment law expert and XpertHR contributor Darren Newman.
The exchange of views began when Newman pointed out numerous factual errors in a piece Bannatyne had written for the Daily Mail headlined: “As office jokes are outlawed and everyone made a victim… What on earth made a Tory-led Government enact Labour’s most lunatic legislation?”
Writing on XpertHR’s Employment Intelligence blog, Newman explained why he felt compelled to respond to the piece. “Not only did it complain about the general thrust and scope of the Equality Act 2010, but it also made some claims about its content that were just wrong,” he wrote. “Not hyperbolic. Not controversial. Not glossing over the finer detail. Just wrong.”
The error Newman focused on was Bannatyne’s assertion that “employers are also no longer allowed to keep an individual’s pay a secret from other employees”.
“Of course, the Act does not contain any such provision,” Newman wrote. “Nowhere in the Act does it even suggest that an employer has to disclose anything to employees about how much other employees are paid. Instead, the Act protects employees from victimisation if they either disclose their own pay to others or ask others to disclose their pay to them where the purpose of such disclosure is to discover whether the pay is discriminatory.”
Bannatyne responded saying that he thought that his interpretation was correct and would be “tested by law”, to which Newman suggested that he had misunderstood the way in which the burden of proof operates in discrimination cases, giving the impression that the employer was “guilty until proved innocent”. The Dragons’ Den star continued to stand by his piece, at one point accussing Newman of claiming that only he alone understood the Equality Act.
When offered a chance to reply to Newman’s latest blog, Bannatyne tweeted: “I would need to read it first and I can’t be bothered.”
In conclusion, Newman wrote: “It is articles like this which contribute to the climate of fear in which small businesses now approach employment law. Employers think that they can’t make any management decisions without taking legal advice. Employees think that they can receive thousands of pounds in compensation for every perceived slight they endure. Those who peddle these delusions then roundly condemn the laws that actually exist only in their own imaginations.”
Here is how the Twitter discussion unfolded…