Equality minister Harriet Harman today laid the first draft of the long-awaited Equality Bill before Parliament.
The Bill would give public bodies an overarching equality duty, forcing them to publish statistics on their gender pay gaps, as well as their levels of ethnic minority and disabled person employment. Private firms bidding for government contracts would also have to publish such figures.
If passed in its current form, the new law would also allow employers to take positive action by choosing a minority candidate over a majority one as long as they are equally qualified for the job.
Women are paid on average 12.6% less per hour than men, while disabled people are two-and-a-half times more likely to be out of work, and ethnic minorities one-fifth less likely to find work.
The Equality Bill would also ban gagging clauses so that work colleagues can compare wages and challenge employers who unlawfully pay them less. Nearly one-quarter of employers ban their staff talking about their wages, with women more likely to be in the dark about colleagues’ pay than men.
Harman said: “This is an important milestone on the road to a fair and equal society. Fairness is important for every individual, for our society, and for our economy.
“We have made progress on tackling unfairness against women and black and Asian people, and people with disabilities. But we want to do more. This is why we’re introducing the Equality Bill, which will streamline and strengthen the law.”