You might be mistaken for believing that gender related pay inequality is a new reason for disputes in the workplace. A letter written by some well known BBC presenters has pushed equal pay onto the front pages, despite the fact that pay equality for men and women and has been a legal obligation for employers since the 1970s. For employment lawyers the Equal Pay Act 1970 has been the subject of extensive Tribunal claims, mainly involving local government employees and those working in the NHS.
There may be lawful reasons to distinguish between workers as regards pay
The fact that men and women are paid at different rates for what could be the same job does not mean that the employer is always acting unlawfully. There may be lawful reasons to distinguish between workers as regards pay, including experience, qualifications and more, but the problem for the BBC is that the distinctions advanced appear to lack credibility. In addition, the clear rates of inequality are so widespread that it is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the payment structure has evolved in a discriminatory way.
The BBC situation may be addressed, but it involves a small number of familiar faces, many of whom are already high earners. This does not excuse the obvious concern arising form the publication, but it is statistically a common problem in many workplaces and occupations. In time all employers will be required to publish pay information for all staff as is the case in some EU countries. From disclosure of information comes knowledge, and from knowledge comes power, including the power to identify inequality and to act to address it. For too many years pay arrangements have been clouded by secrecy, and that concealment allowed discrimination to be become the norm.
EAD has been involved for more than 10 years in equal pay cases
EAD has been involved for more than 10 years in equal pay cases in local government and we have recovered substantial compensation for our clients. Some sectors are well ahead of the BBC employees in working subject to terms and conditions which are not discriminatory, but much still needs to be done. The process will be assisted by transparency in the workplace, and by a recognition that the same work and work of equal value must be paid at the same rate for all.
If an individual is well paid and justifies that pay by their performance and efforts, there is nothing to fear through disclosure and analysis of pay rates. Ensuring that all are treated fairly is a matter for our common good, and we will all benefit if the BBC cases advance that important goal.