Annabel Denham

The cynicism behind Labour’s Race Equality Act

Credit: Getty Images

Labour is desperate to come across as business-friendly. Last week, the party said it will no longer reinstate a cap on bankers’ bonuses, and that it will ‘unashamedly champion’ the financial services industry. But how to square that with the party’s new Race Equality Act?

Most people understand equal pay to mean exactly what was intended when it became law in 1970: that remuneration must be the same for two identical jobs within an organisation, regardless of who is in post. But since the EU’s 2006 Equal Pay Directive it has taken on a new meaning: now, it covers ‘like work’ (where the job and skills are the same or similar), ‘work rated as equivalent’ or ‘work of equal value’. Some jobs, therefore, can be classed ‘as equal work’, even if the roles are, in fact, different.

This has created a problem for employers. Take the case of Birmingham City Council. The local authority is on the hook for an equal pay liability estimated at between £650 million and £750 million, following a court ruling that found hundreds of mostly female employees working in roles such as teaching assistants and catering staff ‘missed out’ on bonuses that were given to traditionally male-dominated roles such as refuse collectors. I would rather be a teaching assistant than a street cleaner, and suspect many men would too, but according to the GMB Union, these women were the victims of ‘shocking’ pay discrimination. 

Consider the implications were this legislation to be widened to include race. It won’t matter that two jobs are different, or that people exercised their free choice in applying for one over the other; a court can rule they are close enough to require equal pay.

Britain doesn’t need a race equality act

And what happens if Labour presses ahead with ethnic pay gap reporting, when employers already have gender pay gap regulations to contend with? The latter tells us nothing of use, partly because the data are so primitive, but allows the discrimination grifters to paint Britain as institutionally sexist and convince women they are victims of a patriarchy.

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