The Equality Act 2010 is 10 years old and the Equal Pay Act 1970 is 50 years old. Is it a cause for celebration?

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  • The Equality Act 2010 is an Act of legislation that has combined 116 separate pieces of legislation into one single Act. The Act provides a legal framework to protect the rights of individuals and advance equality of opportunity for all. (Equality and Human Rights Commission).

The Equality Act 2010 brings together the following Acts;

  • Equal Pay Act 1970
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Race Relations Act 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
  • Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006
  • Equality Act 2006, Part 2
  • Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007

This merger of the above Acts was created to make it a more unitary or integrated piece of law to enable a much more easier way to clarify the definition of discrimination, harassment or victimisation and applying them across all protected characteristics (Equal Rights Review volume five 2010)

Legislation has been put into place to protect us from unfair treatment from others, but are we getting the protection we deserve? Are we being protected against discrimination, harassment or victimisation?

I have coached and supported individuals who have not been treated fairly and have been discriminated against due to their race, disability and sexual orientation. I have also seen articles written by people such as Roger Kline and Binna Kandola and others, highlighting the issue of discrimination particularly due to race. I myself have written about this, and feel not much has changed since the Race Act in 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Equal Pay Act 1970, Disability Act 1995 and Sexual Orientation Act 2003. Organisations are getting away with bullying, harassment, direct and indirect discrimination often getting people to sign NDAs to stop them from reporting incidences of unfair treatment. Others are continuing to perpetrate such acts not offering NDAs, but taking it to the point of giving someone no option but to take the case to tribunal knowing that they have expensive lawyers to support them. However this doesn’t always guarantee that they will be successful. The case of an NHS Manager being awarded £1m in a race discrimination case which showed he was unfairly dismissed. A police officer won a direct discrimination case against her employer. These are just two examples. There are many cases such as these that can be evidenced.

The Equality Act 2010 is not enough of a deterrent to protect people from poor behaviours of individuals in an organisation. I wrote an article many years ago questioning whether the Equality Act 2010 has any teeth. I felt that organisations where behaving poorly without signifiant challenge. The perpetrators where ‘getting away with it’ and the victim was given little or no support to challenge their behaviours.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 is an Act to prevent discrimination as regards terms and conditions of employment between men and women. The Equal Pay Act was an Act of Parliament that prohibited any less favourable treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 was the first piece of UK legislation which enshrined in law the right to pay women and men equally. It set out that an individual can claim equal pay when she or he, compared with a comparator of the opposite sex, is employed in:

  • Like work: Which means work that is the same or broadly similar, regardless of whether the job title is the same.
  • Work rated as equivalent: Which means work that has been rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme.
  • Work of equal value: Which means work that requires the same levels of effort, skill, knowledge and responsibility.

The ‘equality of terms’ provisions of the Act cover all aspects of the contractual pay and benefits package, including:

  • basic pay
  • non-discretionary bonuses
  • overtime rates and allowances
  • performance-related benefits
  • severance and redundancy pay
  • access to pension schemes
  • benefits under pension schemes
  • hours of work
  • company cars
  • sick pay
  • fringe benefits such as travel allowances, and
  • benefits in kind

The Act shows clear intent to ensure that women were paid equally to men. There is no doubt that this Act was to be a strong message to organisation that they were expected to behave appropriately.

As mentioned in my opening statement it has been 50 years since the Equal Pay Act, yet we are still seeing this issue appear. We have had high profile cases such as Carrie Gracie Vs BBC, Rebecca Burke Vs TalkTalk. There are equal pay claims against other organisation such as Co-op, Boots, Asda to name a few.

The Guardian states After 50 years under equality legislation, no western country has closed the gender pay gap and all for the same reason: when these laws were enacted, the burden of enforcement was put on the backs of individuals. Women had to bear the expense and risk of claiming their rights by themselves. When their cases had been heard, judiciaries have been, at best, inconsistent in their decisions. Now many women have little faith that they will see justice and are overwhelmed by the costs and risks, so most pay discrimination goes unchecked. Meanwhile, employers have learned that the risk of a successful equal pay lawsuit against them approaches zero, so the practice of underpaying women goes on.

Sam Smethers CEO of The Fawcett Society comments, nearly fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act, equal pay for equal work is still a distant dream for many women. Pay secrecy means women cannot know if they are being paid equally and fairly.

Even if they do suspect a man is earning more it is almost impossible to do anything about it. This is why we are calling for a change in the law. Women need an enforceable ‘Right to Know’ what their colleagues earn so that they can challenge unequal pay.

The Gender Pay Gap will not close until 2069 according to Deloitte. I would argue, it will take much longer than that because the Ethnicity Pay Gap is not being addressed. Black and other ethnic women are penalised by the Ethnicity Pay Gap and the Gender Pay Gap. Until the Ethnicity Pay Gap is addressed, there cannot be an honest reduction in the Gender Pay Gap.

The #EthnicityPayGap campaign has the support of The Fawcett Society, The Voice, Equality Trust and we have members raising awareness of this issue. We are in solidarity to correct the injustices of Ethnicity Pay. Gender Pay Gap and Ethnicity Pay Gap needs support from all to make a difference.

There is a cause for celebration to mark both milestones however, we should equally ensure that the laws are enforced and deeply embedded into organisations so injustices do not continue to happen. Do not sit in silence hoping that equal pay will be given to you, be sure that this is the case. The Fawcett Society can give you help and advice should you believe that you may have an equal pay claim relating to gender or race.

If you feel that you are being discriminated, victimised or harassed, Work with the HR department to ensure your issues are being dealt with. If your HR department is not performing the duty of care to support you, which unfortunately has been the case for some of the people I have coached and supported, you should speak to ACAS or someone like myself. Speak out, do not put up with outrageous treatment, never allow yourself to fall into depression or anxiety because of others.

The time for change is now!

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