Clause 65

Part of Equality Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 11:45 am ar 23 Mehefin 2009.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Vera Baird Vera Baird Solicitor General, Attorney General's Office 11:45, 23 Mehefin 2009

Then I will set out how we think the provisions work. The sex discrimination provisions of the Bill do not apply where the equality clause or rule provisions operate. It is right to ensure that a remedy for a particular wrong is a single specified remedy rather than a matter of choice from a menu, and that is what the clause achieves. We have already discussed our general approach to equal pay in the Bill. Essentially, equal pay is contract-based, achieved by modifying or reading in a term of an employee’s contract of employment to ensure equality with a colleague of the opposite sex doing equal work. We have maintained that position in the equality clause provisions of the Bill.

In “A Framework for Fairness”, we consulted on whether to maintain that contractual approach, and a significant majority of respondents favoured it, although I recognise that some take a contrary view. We have tried to adjust the relationship between equal pay and the discrimination provisions to ensure that there is no gap by allowing claims of direct discrimination in respect of contractual pay. I think that I said that in a previous debate as well. As we have already discussed, we believe that doing away with the separate contractual approach could lead to considerable uncertainty and confusion.

The sex discrimination provisions listed in the table apply only to non-contractual pay and benefits such as promotion, transfer and training and to offers of employment or appointment to office, except as provided  by clause 66 in respect of direct discrimination. For example, if a company offers more training or promotion opportunities to men because it believes they will stay longer than women, a claim of sex discrimination by the women would come under the sex discrimination provisions. If it is not clear—this might be what is concerning the hon. Lady—whether a particular claim relates to benefits that are contractual or non-contractual, it can be made, as is currently the case, under both provisions, and the tribunal will, to put it in technical language, sort it out.

The clause also maintains the distinction between the provisions for equality in terms of occupational pension schemes and the provisions that prohibit sex discrimination in giving access to such a scheme. It is worth pointing out that where a woman cannot identify a comparator doing equal work and wants to make a claim involving contract terms not relating to pay, such as promotion, the sex discrimination provisions will apply to such a claim. Again, the position is the same as before. I understand the change that the hon. Lady seeks, but the Government see the clause as an essential aspect of the functioning of the Bill. I hope that the Committee will therefore agree that it should stand part of the Bill.