Has 50 Years of Equal Pay Legislation Done Enough to Level the Playing Field? Not Even Close.

Bound by a red ribbon, it is tucked away in the United Kingdom’s Parliamentary Archives. The paper on which it is printed is yellowing slightly. The first page reads simply: “AN ACT TO Prevent discrimination, as regards terms and conditions of employment, between men and women.” Passed just over fifty years ago, and in effect forty-five years ago, the UK’s Equal Pay Act 1970 established the principle of equal pay for “equal work”.

According to Great Britain’s Equality and Human Rights Commission, “equal work” is defined as:

  • “like work – this is where the works involve similar tasks which require similar skills, and any differences in the work are not of practical importance
  • work rated as equivalent – this is where the work has been rated under a fair job evaluation scheme as being of equal value in terms of how demanding it is
  • work of equal value – this is work which is not similar and has not been rated as equivalent, but is of equal value in terms of demands such as effort, skill and decision-making.”

On its fiftieth anniversary, it is important to reflect on what the Act accomplished in terms of progress towards workplace equality, as well as how much is still left to be done.

On one hand, the Equal Pay Act 1970 formed the cornerstone of a cutting-edge pay equity reporting regime. In 2010, the Equal Pay Act 1970 was incorporated into the Equality Act 2010, along with other civil rights legislation. Under Equality Act 2010 regulations, employers with over 250 employees must publically report on the gender pay gaps in their organizations. The regulations mandate that organizations publish 12-month snapshots on their websites displaying where they stand in providing pay to men and women. The organizations also are required to upload this information to the UK government website. In this way, the public and regulators can glean critical insights into businesses’ pay practices that are typically kept secret. You can search and compare select organizations’ gender pay gap data here. Note: there is currently a moratorium on gender pay gap reporting in 2020 due to COVID-19. Progress toward equal pay would likely look very different in the UK without the Equal Pay Act 1970.

On the other hand, there is still more work to be done. In 2019, the gender pay gap in the UK, including part-time employees, was 17.3% according to the UK’s Office of National Statistics. In addition, an attorney from the law firm Dentons cited data that the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19 has impacted women to a greater degree than men. During quarantine, wrote lawyer Lisa Watson, “Mothers were also 23% more likely than fathers to have temporarily or permanently lost their jobs during the crisis, 47% were more likely to have permanently lost their job or have had to quit and 14% were more likely to have been furloughed.”

The persistence of the gender pay gap, as well as women’s greater susceptibility to the negative economic effects of the global pandemic, illustrate that, despite significant progress, Equality Act 1970 has not yet accomplished its driving purpose.

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Any strategy to address the gender pay gap must be multi-faceted and comprehensive. Nonetheless, employers have a critical tool available to them to begin the process of counteracting this disproportionate effect. When it comes to the workplace, experts from across the human capital, legal, and compensation industries recommend that businesses conduct a pay equity audit. A pay equity audit is an analytical tool that seeks to explain internal differences in pay across the workforce in terms of justifiable business factors, as well as identify the areas where pay differences may not be defensible. It can also provide critical analytics to kickstart rehiring in compliance with state and federal equal pay laws.

Not sure how to get started? Let Trusaic provide your organization with a free Pay Gap Analysis, which can be conducted confidentially and under the attorney-client privilege.

Here is what you will get:

  • 1-hour consultation to our pay equity team comprised of regulatory compliance experts and data scientists;
  • Answers to your pay equity questions;
  • A pay gap analysis of your workforce.

To learn more about achieving pay equity, and to receive a free pay gap risk assessment, click here.

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Has 50 Years of Equal Pay Legislation Done Enough to Level the Playing Field? Not Even Close.
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Has 50 Years of Equal Pay Legislation Done Enough to Level the Playing Field? Not Even Close.
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Progress made but not mission accomplished: 50 years of the UK’s Equal Pay Act.
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Trusaic
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