Employers should be given more time to rectify wages after a successful equal pay claim, because the financial burden is too much for many businesses to deal with immediately, Acas has claimed.
Rita Donaghy, chairwoman of the arbitration and conciliation body, said a more phased approach to handling equal pay would encourage more employers to look at their current structures.
Under current laws, if a company conducts an equal pay review and uncovers discriminatory pay levels, then the difference must be put right immediately.
“For smaller companies in particular, this can put an unbearable strain on the businesses finances,” said Donaghy. “If the law were to be changed to allow organisations to phase in equal pay over a period of time, many employers would be more willing to look at equal pay issues, knowing they had time to sort out the company’s finances.”
However, Donaghy insisted that cost was only partly to blame for the lack of progress on equal pay, as employers and employees are largely ignorant of the laws already in place.
In a submission to the Women and Work Commission, which is investigating female employment issues, Donaghy said low levels of understanding and a lack of information was the key factor holding back equal pay.
She said employers and individuals don’t know enough about equal pay legislation to take positive action.
“Less than 1% of calls to our helpline are about equal pay, and they demonstrate a lot of misunderstanding of what it involves,” she added. “There needs to be more funding to raise awareness of the issues.”