With an election on the horizon, Labour have recently set out its plans to expand the grounds of equal pay claims to ethnic minority and disabled workers if it is to win the next UK general election. Currently, the equal pay regime only applies on grounds of sex.
The Equality Act 2010 sets out that women and men are entitled to equal pay for equal work. Labour previously promised a Race Equality Act in 2020 in order to address structural racial inequality and the sentiment of their announcement is of course sits in line with this – on the face of it, the plans sound great! However the practical effects of these new intentions are highly anticipated and, based on the coverage of these announcements thus far, have been met with a lot of scepticism.
Although it could be suggested that the extension of the grounds for equal pay claims is a positive indicator of our society moving towards better awareness of equality rights, it could be argued that the proposals for extending the equal pay rights is simply a ‘tick box’ exercise. We say this because there are already existing avenues for an employee to pursue pay disparity-related claims via discrimination claims. Moreover, equal pay claims tend to follow a much more complicated process than discrimination claims and so the reality of widening its scope does not necessarily improve overall access to justice.
Under the new proposals, the Labour party is also looking to endorse protections against ‘dual discrimination.’ This is where, for example, an ethnic minority employee is subject to both sexism and racism. Under said proposals, this would be considered one discrimination claim rather than the current position which would regard the example as two separate discrimination claims (one for each protected characteristic).
Furthermore, the new act would place a duty on public services such as the NHS and the police to report on staffing, pay and outcomes by ethnicity where deemed necessary to do so. The Labour government would also look to implement anti-racism training for the likes of the police, and reviewing the school curriculum to promote diversity.
However, similarly to the above observation, dual discrimination is already addressed in the Equality Act at section 14 (albeit it has never been enacted). Therefore, again it does leave us questioning what the practical effects of these proposals are going to be.
As the build-up to a General Election continues, this is most definitely worth keeping an eye on!
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