The 2010 Equality Act took effect from 1 October meaning workers have new rights that will help stamp out pay discrimination. Measures include stopping employers from using pay secrecy or 'gagging' clauses to hide unfair differences between what men and women are paid.
Around 90 per cent of the new act has now come into force, making the law simpler by bringing together nine pieces of legislation under a single banner. Key law changes introduced on 1 October include:
Making pay secrecy 'gagging' clauses unenforceable - protecting employees who discuss their pay with each other for the purposes of uncovering discrimination;
extra protection for disabled people - limiting the circumstances in which employers can question job applicants questions about disability or health prior to offering them a job;
new powers for employment tribunals - they can now make recommendations that will affect an employer’s whole workforce (not just particular employees who sue their employer); and
new responsibilities for employers to protect their staff from harassment by customers, where possible.
Men and women doing equal work and work rated as of equal value are entitled to equal pay. Employers may wish to carry out a pay audit to ensure that men and women are getting equal pay according to the Equality Act 2010
Employers must give men and women equal treatment in the terms and conditions of their employment contract if they are employed on:
'Like work’ – work that is the same or broadly similar;
work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study; and
work found to be of equal value.
A woman is employed on 'like work' with a man if her work is of the same or a broadly similar nature. It is for the employer to show that there is a genuine reason for any difference in pay, which is not based on the sex of an individual.
Employees are also entitled to know how their pay is made up. For example, if there is a bonus system, everyone should know how to earn bonuses and how they are calculated.
If you cannot resolve the problem informally, you may complain to an employment tribunalunder the Equality Act 2010 while still working in the job or up to six months after leaving the employment to which your claim relates.
Normally, you may claim arrears of remuneration (which includes sick pay, holiday pay, bonuses, overtime etc as well as 'pay') for a period of up to six years (five years in Scotland) before the date of your tribunal application.
A new British film released as the act took effect is based on the story of women workers at the Ford assembly plant in Dagenham, East London. In 1968, women at the plant went on strike to demand equal pay. Their actions led to the creation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act.
The Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality, Theresa May, met four of the original strikers recently. She said: "Thanks to pioneers like the women who feature in 'Made in Dagenham', the workplace is much fairer than it was in 1968. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"From today the gagging clauses that stop people discussing their pay with their colleagues will be unenforceable, allowing women - and men - to find out if they're being paid unfairly."
The nine pieces of legislation being brought together under the Equality Act are:
Equal Pay Act (1970);
Sex Discrimination Act (1975);
Race Relations Act (1976);
Disability Discrimination Act (1995);
Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations (2003);
Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2003);
Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (2006);
Equality Act (2006); and
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2007).
 Participation E. Equality Act 2010 [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents
 Equal pay - advice and guidance | Acas [Internet]. [cited 2017 Mar 14]. Available from: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1811
 Employment Tribunal - GOV.UK [Internet]. [cited 2017 Feb 23]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/courts-tribunals/employment-tribunal
 Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968. In: Wikipedia [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2017 Mar 14]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ford_sewing_machinists_strike_of_1968&oldid=762547959
 Participation E. Equal Pay Act 1970 (repealed) [Internet]. [cited 2017 Mar 14]. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1970/41
 Goodley S. Dagenham sewing machinists recall strike that changed women’s lives. The Guardian [Internet]. 2013 Jun 6 [cited 2017 Mar 14]; Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jun/06/dagenham-sewing-machinists-strike