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Labour's mandatory pay gap plans draw mixed reaction

Race equality thinktank Runnymede Trust, said the proposals do not tackle the deeper disparities in the jobs market

The Labour Party has proposed making ethnicity pay gap reporting mandatory, bringing it in line with the current mandate on gender pay gap reporting.

The proposed Race Equality Act would extend the same equal pay rights given to women to people from ethnic minorities and disabled people.

The principle that women and men are entitled to equal pay for equal work is set out in the 2010 Equality Act. Although pay inequalities on other grounds can still be challenged through a claim of direct discrimination, Labour said their plans would strengthen protections.

Shabna Begum, interim CEO of race equality thinktank Runnymede Trust, said the proposals are welcome but do not tackle all of the deeper disparities in the jobs market.

She told HR magazine: “Whilst we welcome the move towards a mandatory ethnicity pay gap, we know that some of the other measures like strengthening equal pay, tinker peripherally at the real inequalities and discrimination. 

“Emphasising equal pay frames the problem as one about horizontal pay discrimination. It does not address the deep income and wealth inequalities that shape and limit the lives of so many workers. 

“These persistent inequalities are rooted in a labour market where some groups, like Bangladeshi and Pakistani workers, are disproportionately located in low-paid, low-valued jobs that are insecure and have little protection.”

Read more: Government urged to back mandatory ethnicity pay reporting

Paul Nowak, director general of the Trades Union Congress, said the measures would help close the disability pay gap.

He said: “Ministers have presided over a decade of zero progress on the disability pay gap. We can’t afford to waste any more time.

“Labour’s mandatory disability pay gap reporting would help shine a light on this inequality and set about resolving it. 

“Without this long-overdue legislation, millions of disabled workers will be consigned to many more years of lower pay and in-work poverty.”

The proposals, which were announced on Monday (6 January), would also put protections in place against 'dual discrimination', where people face prejudice because of a combination of protected characteristics. 

For example, if a woman was facing discrimination against her age and gender, she would be able to bring one discrimination claim rather than one for each protected characteristic.

Labour said this would help protect people from discrimination and ease backlogs in the tribunal system.

Read more: Ethnicity motherhood penalty study released by Fawcett Society

However, employment lawyer Darren Newman, said the proposal was confused and rehashed current protections. He also said that claimants already only bring one case when two of their protected characteristics are discriminated against in the same incident.

In a blog post, he wrote: “It is already direct discrimination to treat somebody less favourably because they are a black woman – or a white man, or an older gay person, or a Muslim woman.[...]

“If, when choosing between two women, the employer would choose the one that is not a Muslim then of course that is religious discrimination. It will also be direct sex discrimination if a Muslim man would have been recruited. [..]  There has never been a case where it has been a problem.

“The idea that a claimant in these circumstances has to bring two separate tribunal claims is gloriously wrongheaded. There is only one act of discrimination and only one claim even if it can be expressed in two different ways.”