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Equality Bill

Part of the debate – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:31 am on 9th June 2009.

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Sarah Veale: I would suggest that there are a number of contributory factors, as is suggested by research from the Equal Opportunities Commission. The TUC has never said that the gap is due solely to the fact that employers are discriminating, either indirectly or directly, but there is clearly a sex discrimination element, which is why pay auditing is important. There are other huge extraneous factors, such as the availability of flexible working, and measures to facilitate women returning  from maternity leave and to provide the extra training that they might need to catch up. It is a complex picture, and a lot will depend on what the company does and what sort of people it is trying to recruit.

We would still argue that sex discrimination—usually indirectly, but occasionally directly—is an important factor, and something within the employer’s control. That is why the TUC has been concerned to ensure that measures are in place to work out what the problem is and to promote workplace solutions. We are pushing hard at the idea of developing people within the work force who can work with employers to identify and deal with those complicated issues, and we hope that the Government will support that. Union equality reps should be given the statutory rights that other union representatives have to help employers to work on equality issues and eliminate discrimination. That would save the public purse a lot of money on often unnecessary litigation, and it would solve systemic problems in the workplace, which is where they need to be solved.