Employers need further guidance to help them comply with the new equal pay
questionnaires without breaching the Data Protection Act.
This is the view of the Engineering Employers Federation (EEF) in its
response to the DTI’s consultation paper on the questionnaires, which are due
to be introduced as part of the Employment Act in April this year.
The questionnaire will give staff the right to request pay information on a
colleague of the opposite sex at the same level.
The EEF called on the DTI to give clearer guidance on how employers can
avoid breaching data protection rules when responding to requests from
complainants for confidential information about their colleagues.
Currently, employers can disclose this information if the request is part of
legal proceedings, such as an equal pay claim.
Peter Martin, director of employment policy for the EEF, called on the
Government to provide more details outlining employers’ responsibilities where
proceedings are not issued.
"Data protection is a much bigger issue than it used to be. Staff are
much more likely to demand a degree of privacy over their affairs," he
Martin also wants the DTI to limit the use of equal pay claims to those
individuals who have genuine grounds for making a complaint – to prevent abuse.
"The Government needs to modify its proposals. Simple changes to
request confidentiality and prevent them being used for inappropriate purposes
would not undermine the overall aim of the questionnaire."
The equal pay questionnaires are voluntary, but employers that don’t respond
are likely to be penalised if they are taken to an employment tribunal.
By Ben Willmott