Firms at risk from equal pay claims

More
than eight out of 10 employers are at risk from equal play claims from female
staff.

A
survey of more than 200 employers by DLA MCG Consulting shows that 83 per cent
are not confident they pay women fairly. It also finds that only a minority of
managers are trained in equal pay issues.

Derek
Burn, director of consulting at DLA MCG Consulting, believes the study shows
that the issue of equal pay is a time bomb for companies failing to carry out
pay audits. "The majority of companies that took part felt at risk from
equal pay claims," he said.

Julie
Mellor, chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission, which is calling for the
Government to make equal pay audits mandatory, was not surprised so many
employers feel vulnerable.

"By
looking at their pay systems and taking necessary action to eliminate pay
discrimination, employers can be more confident about reducing the risk of
equal pay claims," she said.

Geoff
Tucker, head of remuneration for insurance firm Legal & General, which
carried out an equal pay audit for the majority of its 8,000 staff, said the
process meant the firm was better placed to defend itself against equal pay
claims.

"We
thought this was something that a best practice company ought to do if we
believe in being fair in the way we pay our people," said Tucker.

The
Government provided best practice guidance on equal pay following the Kingsmill
report last year, but the unions are calling for pay audits to be made
compulsory. Gail Cartmail, national equalities officer for Amicus, said: "There
needs to be equal pay legislation to ensure there is a level playing
field."

By Ben Willmott

Equal
pay audit to cost Birmingham CC£15m

Birmingham
City Council is to carry out a job evaluation for its 35,000-strong workforce
to ensure it is not vulnerable to equal pay claims.

The
council will set up a 10-person taskforce to oversee the regrading exercise,
which is esti-mated to cost £15m in extra wages and set to be completed by 2004.

Plans
for the evaluation follow a report from chief personnel officer Andy Albon and
strategic director of resources Sarah Wood, which warns that the local
authority is currently open to equal pay claims. Albon said: "It will make
sure we have a more equitable renumeration structure, enabling us to muster a
defence against claims."

The
job evaluation forms part of a Single Status Agreement between the council and
unions signed in 1997.

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