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New rules for breaches of UK equal pay law come into effect

Organisations required to audit pay structures unless they meet certain criteria 

1 October 2014

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By Manju Manglani, Editor (@ManjuManglani)

New regulations to ensure all UK employers abide by equal pay legislation come into effect today.

From now on, organisations that are found to have breached equal pay law at a tribunal must produce an equal pay audit that analyses their pay structures, unless they qualify for one of four exceptions, or are classed as an exemption.

The regulations follow the introduction of the government's Think, Act, Report initiative in September 2011 to encourage all UK organisations to improve gender equality in the workplace.

"Nearly forty years on from the Equal Pay Act, there is simply no excuse for employers who pay people less because of their gender. These new rules mean that companies who break the law on equal pay will be forced to evaluate their pay structures to prevent further violations," said Minister for Women and Equalities Jo Swinson.

"We want all businesses to recognise how pay transparency can help attract, recruit and retain talented women staff, and encourage organisations to sign up to our Think, Act, Report initiative to promote equality in the workplace."

Under the regulations, organisations can be exempt from the requirement to audit their pay structures if they are: micro businesses with less than 10 staff; or start-up businesses that are less than 12 months old at the time of the equal pay claim.

Organisations which qualify for one of the following four exceptions can also avoid the required equal pay audit:

  1. if the employer had undertaken an audit that meets the specifications set out in regulations within three years of the finding of a breach of equal pay law by the tribunal;

  2. if it is clear to the tribunal that no action is required to avoid equal pay breaches in future (i.e. the current breach was clearly a one-off);

  3. if the tribunal has no reason to believe the employer is committing other equal pay breaches; or

  4. if the tribunal is convinced that the disadvantage of carrying out the audit outweighs the advantages.

The implementation of these regulations fulfils a Coalition mid-term agreement.

To support women in the workplace, the government is also giving employees the right to request flexible working, as well as introducing tax-free childcare for up to 1.9 million working families, and shared parental leave from 2015.

 

 

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