Tough choices on equal pay on backburner until August

The Women and Work Commission will delay proposing controversial recommendations on changes to the law to address gender pay discrimination for a further eight months.

The commission had already delayed its report from November to January 2006 due to its workload, but calls for changes to the legislation will now be fed into the discrimination law review, which does not report until August.

The bulk of the recommendations will still come at the start of the year, but they will not include the anticipated radical proposals such as equality representatives for all employers, a single equality Act and allowing group litigation.

The government has repeatedly said it would prefer to educate business about the economic benefits of treating women equally rather than legislating.

But Baroness Prosser, chair of the commission, strongly denied the suggestion that reporting to the law review was an attempt by the government to bury difficult recommendations.

“I am confident our recommendations will not get lost in the melee,” she told Personnel Today.

The discrimination law review, led by Trevor Phillips, is currently considering 32 separate pieces of legislation, and Prosser said that it was sensible for the commission to feed its views on legislative changes into the process.

“We don’t want to make our recommendations in a vacuum,” she said. “If we do, they might not fit with the overall pattern of things.”

The Equal Opportunities Commission has called for an overhaul of the law to close the gender pay gap, which still stands at more than 17% for full-time and almost 40% for part-time workers.

Wendy Olsen, an expert in gender discrimination from the University of Manchester, agreed. “Private sector companies won’t adopt [anti-discrimination] measures unless they are forced to,” she said. “It is not justice that is the main concern, it is fear of getting caught.”

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