Equality Bill refuses to allow firms ‘amnesty’ on equal pay gaps

Employers will not be given a period of amnesty to deal with equal pay claims when they are forced to publish their gender pay gap in 2013, paving the way for hundreds of costly and lengthy tribunals, Personnel Today has learned.

Vera Baird, solicitor general and minister who is taking the Bill through Parliament, told Personnel Today the only transitional arrangements available for employers to correct unequal pay at work were between now and 2013, while reporting on pay gaps was still voluntary.

Firms with more than 250 staff, and public sector organisations with more than 150 employees, will be required by law to report on their gender pay gap in just four years time if the Bill succeeds in its current form.

When asked if there was going to be an amnesty period for employers, Baird gave no assurance that employers trying to rectify their pay gaps would be free from litigation over the next four years or in 2013. She said: “This is the time [for amnesty] now. There will only be compulsory reporting in 2013.”

But Baird hoped the added pressure of a new annual report on equal pay gaps across firms, compiled by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), would entice firms to carry out audits voluntarily – and in their own time.

However, the EHRC has previously called for the law to be changed to allow employers a period of amnesty so that claims can be dealt with away from the tribunal process.

An EHRC spokeswoman told Personnel Today last month that to force firms to carry out equal pay reviews would only lead to a “flood of litigation claims” when the tribunal system was already overwhelmed.

Yesterday, the commission said it would immediately begin a pre-consultation with employers’ groups and unions to discuss which measures in the Bill would work for businesses and employees. However, it did not pre-empt whether the official consultation published in the summer would call for any transitional arrangements for employers to have some protection from litigation while they correct unequal pay.

The gender pay gap currently stands at 17.1% for full time hourly roles.

IRS Conference: Discrimination and Equality

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