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The Bill would provide employees with a legal right to be told by an organisation what a male comparator is being paid.

The ‘right to know’ Bill, which has been laid in the House of Lords, follows research conducted by the Society into the issue of equal pay between genders in the workplace. Data from this study revealed that 52 per cent of women would be embarrassed to ask male colleagues how much they earn, whilst a third of those asked were unaware of the rights already available to them in this situation.  

Speaking on the research Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, outlines that ‘fifty years on from the Equal Pay Act the law designed to address pay discrimination is… too often ignored’. He goes on to state that this new Bill would help provide women ‘the right to know’ if they are being ‘paid less than a man for equal work’.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines that it is illegal to pay a woman less than a man for work which is the same or broadly similar, which rates as equivalent or which is of equal value. Employees who feel they are being unfairly paid in this situation do reserve the right to ask the organisation to establish whether they have received equal pay and, if not, the reason behind this discrepancy. That said, this latest data from the Fawcett Society suggests that there is still a long way to go in tackling this issue, outlining that six in 10 women know they are being paid less for this reason, or that they are deliberately being kept in the dark.

Fawcett’s Equal Pay Bill 2020, which is being supported by Labour MP Harriet Harman and the BBC’s Carrie Grace, seeks to modernise equal pay laws. Alongside the ‘right to know’ provision, which would make an organisation have to provide this information, the Bill would also do the following:

  • extend gender pay gap reporting from organisations with 250 or more employees to those with 100 or more employees
  • implement gender pay gap reporting by ethnicity
  • force organisations to publish action plans to tackle gender pay gaps, which is currently optional.

Whilst there is no guarantee that this Bill will become law, the actions of the Society reaffirm to organisations that this remains an area of much scrutiny. As such, it is highly advisable that they take action to be aware of this issue in their organisation and tackle it if need be. Even without this Bill, employees still reserve the right to bring potentially costly equal pay claims; as we saw last month, BBC journalist Samira Ahmed was successfully able to argue that she had been unfairly paid in comparison to fellow journalist Jeremy Vine.  

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