Thank you for contacting me about equal pay for men and women.
As you know half a century ago, the Equal Pay Act 1970 enshrined the principle of equal pay for equal work in statute. It was a landmark piece of legislation that provided fairer contractual terms for women and also recognised the equally important contribution of women in the workplace. The Act was subsequently consolidated into the Equality Act 2010 which offers substantially the same provisions.
The time limit for bringing an equal pay claim before an Employment Tribunal is already longer than for many other types of claim, at six months. Equal pay cases can also be brought in the Civil Courts up to six years after the claimant has left the relevant position. Individuals can bring forward cases where they believe that there are disparities in remuneration for equal work with the same employer. It remains a crucial enforcement tool, empowering women from all walks of life, many in lower-paid roles, to not only secure fair pay but to demand that their work be valued. That said, I appreciate that the process can be lengthy and complex, and I understand calls for reform.
Equal pay for equal work should be the norm for all employers in the UK. I fully support efforts to improve pay transparency and identify barriers to career progression.
I share your objectives to ensure equal pay and see a reduction in the gender pay gap but I do not agree that the provisions of the Equal Pay Bill would achieve this in the right way because there is already work underway across Government to consider some of the issues raised in this Bill.
Furthermore, the law is already clear that there should be absolutely nothing preventing individuals from discussing their pay with their colleagues. Under the Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful for an employer to try and stop employees from sharing information about what they earn. I also know that my colleagues in government are fully committed to the Equal Pay protections in the Equality Act 2010.
In 2017, ground-breaking regulations were introduced, requiring large employers to publish their gender pay gaps annually. Greater transparency, thanks to mandatory reporting, is motivating employers to identify barriers to women’s progression in the workplace and put pressure on them to take action to address them. The Government Equalities Office is supporting employers to reduce their gaps and has published guidance on how to diagnose the causes of a gap and how to create an effective action plan.
It should be noted that the difference in the ways men and women participate in the labour market, whether taking time out or working part time, is the biggest driver of the gender pay gap. That is why the Government is committed to supporting families with their childcare costs and plans to spend more than £3.6 billion in 2021 to support early education entitlements.
Although I will not support the Bill, I would be happy to discuss the issue with my parliamentary colleagues.