“Women in Northern Ireland still earn on average 10% less than men,” Equality Commissioner Lyn McBriar said at the launch of the new Equal Pay Code at Equality House today. “When the first equal pay law was introduced in 1970 that figure was 30%, so things have improved, but there is clearly still more to do,” she said.
There is a lower gender pay gap in Northern Ireland than in the rest of the UK and the greater proportion of public sector jobs here may be a factor in that. While public sector wages in Northern Ireland are not out of line with those in Britain, private sector pay here is just 82% of the UK average.
“While the law governing equal pay can seem complex, its purpose in essence is very simple – to ensure that men and women doing equal work for the same or an associated employer get the same rewards for it,” Lyn McBriar said. “The new Code presents clearly to employers the information they need on equal pay issues.”
The Code, which comes into effect on 22nd July, gives employers practical guidance on how to promote equality of opportunity and avoid sex discrimination in pay structures.
“It gives guidance on the scope of the Equal Pay Act, on the concepts and definitions of like work, work rated as equivalent and work of equal value and on pay during pregnancy and maternity, part-time work and occupational pension schemes. The Code is aimed mainly at employers, but employees and their representatives or advisers, for example, from a trade union or Citizens Advice Bureau, should also find it useful.”
“It also sets out how the law is applied by the industrial tribunals, including the assessment of equal pay and employers’ defences to equal pay claims.”
While the Code of Practice is not legally binding, it is admissible in evidence in any proceedings under the Equal Pay Act before the industrial tribunal. The tribunal may take into account an employer’s failure to follow the provisions of the Code.
The Commission offers free and confidential advice, support and training to employers and organisations, to help them comply with the law. The Equal Pay Code is just one of a wide range of online, print and staff resources available from the Equality Commission to help employers promote equality of opportunity and avoid discrimination.
Code of Practice on Equal Pay (PDF, 540Kb)