Equal pay is driven by the principle that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.
However, recent discussions suggest that the concept of equal pay might be expanding beyond the realms of gender to include race and disability. This potential shift in focus has garnered attention, prompting debates on the efficacy and implications of such a change.
Current Equal Pay Laws in the UK
Under the Equality Act 2010, men and women are entitled to equal pay for equal work.
The law covers employees, workers, apprentices, agency workers, and even self-employed individuals hired for personal work. Equal work means ‘like work,’ or’ work rated as equivalent’ through job evaluation. It is also ‘work of equal value’ based on factors such as skill, training, responsibility, or working conditions.
This law extends its reach to various elements. This includes basic salary, pension, working hours, annual leave, holiday pay, overtime, redundancy pay, sick pay, performance-related pay, and other contractual terms.
Organisations must ensure transparency in their pay structures and rectify unjustifiable inequalities.
What the Labour Party Proposes
The Labour Party has plans to extend full equal pay rights to ethnic minority workers and individuals with disabilities if the party assumes power.
The proposed Race Equality Act aims to push the right to equal pay for black, Asian, and ethnic minority workers, as well as disabled individuals. This move is an extension of the current equal pay regime, which exclusively applies to gender-based disparities.
Under the Labour Party’s proposals, changes would be gradual to allow employers time to adjust. The party emphasises the need for a new legislative framework. They noted that the Race Equality Act that would complement the existing Equality Act 2010.
The plans also include statutory ethnicity pay gap reporting. This will require larger employers to disclose hourly pay differences between workers of different ethnicities.
The proposed changes would mark a significant expansion of the equal pay framework. Further, it would also introduce new dimensions of protection against discrimination based on race and disability in terms of pay and other contractual terms.
How Could These Changes Work?
The Labour Party envisions a comprehensive approach, acknowledging the nuances of discrimination stemming from ethnic diversity and disability.
The challenge, however, lies in defining how equal pay claims for ethnicity and disability would be established.
Currently, sex-based equal pay claims require finding a comparator engaged in equal work but receiving less pay. The intricate nature of equal pay claims needs careful consideration of how these principles apply to ethnicity and disability.
In addition to extending equal pay rights, the proposed Race Equality Act would introduce statutory ethnicity pay gap reporting.
While this measure was not mandatory by the current government in 2022, the Labour Party aims to make it a legal requirement for larger employers. This reporting would involve disclosing hourly pay differences between workers of different ethnicities. Thus, adding a layer of transparency to organisational pay structures.
The proposed legislation is anticipated to go beyond equal pay, encompassing initiatives such as race training for police staff and the establishment of a new body to collect data on ethnic minority health outcomes.
As the Labour Party envisions expanded equality legislation, the landscape of employment law in the UK stands at a potential crossroads.
The proposed Race Equality Act, if enacted, would not only extend these rights to ethnic minority workers and individuals with disabilities but also introduce statutory ethnicity pay gap reporting. The intentions behind these proposals come from pursuing fairness and inclusivity. However, the practical implications and implementation details remain to be seen.