The 2008 statistics on employment tribunal claims hide some interesting information for the ordinary employer. The number of claims increased from 132,577 to 189,303 but this was substantially fuelled by an increase in equal pay claims, which increased by 18,693 to a 62,706.
Most of these claims were against government organisations. Local authorities in particular grapple with equal pay.
Having created the system of equal pay it seems the government itself can not comply with it. Expensive equal pay and job evaluation exercises have rolled through the education system, local government and NHS. A whole industry exists to evaluate jobs and pay.
Equal pay legislation has been around since the 1970s. The original Act was delayed five years to allow employers to put their house in order but still the government did not do so, leaving women underpaid and the tax payer to pick up the tab years later.
Women still don’t earn as much as men, employers still don’t really understand equal pay. And a lot of tax payers money goes on defending employment tribunal claims.
Ask any ordinary manager and they have no idea of the concept of ‘work of equal value’ as opposed to ‘like work’. If you have any idea of what I am talking about you are much further ahead than most.
If the government can’t successfully implement equal pay without being sued all over the place, is it time to look at the what is really going on?
Many ordinary employers are sitting ducks for equal pay claims. Despite years of ACAS advice, EOC guidance and so on, even fully staffed HR departments can’t always explain how pay levels are determined and owner-managers have no chance.
Is there not a simpler, cheaper way to achieve fairness than all this paperwork? Is there no other way? And when some bright mind comes up with a great new scheme can we get the government to test it on itself to see if it is possible to comply with it before getting everyone else to comply?
This article was published in 2009. Has anything changed?
Annabel Kaye is Managing Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy. Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : www.irenicon.co.uk. You can follow Annabel on twitter – http://twitter.com/AnnabelKaye