From today (1 October 2014), employers who are found to have breached equal pay law will be ordered by the employment tribunal to carry out and publish equal pay audits.
In broad terms, breaches of equal pay law arise where men and women don't receive equal pay for equal work.
An equal pay audit involves a systematic evaluation of an employer’s pay and reward systems. Any differences in pay, whether contractual or not, between women and men doing the same or equal work must be identified. The audit must include an action plan for eliminating any differences due to gender.
However, compulsory pay audits are not required for new businesses (less than 12 months trading), micro businesses (less than 10 employees), or where an employer has completed a valid audit in the last three years.
Further audits aren't required where the equal pay breach appears to be an isolated issue, or it's clear what, if any, action is required, or the disadvantages of an audit outweigh its benefits. This leaves employers plenty of wriggle room.
Furthermore, audits are limited to specified persons to be identified by the employment tribunal. A comprehensive and meaningful audit would ordinarily encompass the whole organisation. The restriction of compulsory audits to specified persons limits the burden on employers but materially limits their effectiveness.
Employers who fail to comply can be fined multiple penalties up to £5,000.
The government heralds compulsory equal pay audits as a tough new approach to tackling persistent pay inequality, but in the same breath estimates that only two or three business a year will be required to undertake them.
With equal pay claims down by 84%, compulsory equal pay audits are set to be all bark and no bite.
For more information, see The Equality Act 2010 (Equal Pay Audits) Regulations 2014.
And in other employment news… fathers and partners are entitled to time off work to attend ante-natal appointments
From today, fathers and partners of pregnant women are entitled to take time off work to accompany them to ante-natal appointments. “Partner” includes spouse, civil partner or person in a long-term relationship. The time off is unpaid and is limited to up to two absences lasting up to 6.5 hours each.
For more detailed guidance, see the BIS guide.