Under the Equality Bill, employers will no longer be able to prevent staff from discussing salaries with each other. “Clauses outlawing such talk have generally only been limited to senior staff in small companies,” comments Joan Pettingill, head of employment law at HLW McCombie. “But if a senior manager suddenly discovers, on having this restriction lifted, that he or she has been paid considerably less than a colleague doing a similar job, then the penalties you’ll have to cough up as part of an equal pay claim could be more onerous.”
The Equality Bill doesn’t force staff to reveal how much they earn – and neither do the new rules bar employers from paying staff with similar sounding jobs different salaries. “Entrepreneurs will just have to be much more robust in building up their justifications for doing so,” says Pettingill. “Be ready to show that the two jobs are not, in fact, the same, or that the pay difference is justified because one manager is more skilled than the other. Otherwise you leave yourself open to losing at a tribunal.”
Many entrepreneurs believe the Equality Bill is another piece of pointless red tape. “There is absolutely no such thing as a pay gap at Pimlico Plumbers. All the plumbers are paid exactly the same hourly rate, whether they be male or female," says Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers. “The only thing you need to work at Pimlico are the right qualifications – in our case five years post-apprenticeship plumbing experience. After that, the amount you can earn is based on how many hours you put in each week. I’m a big believer in giving people exactly what they deserve, regardless of who they are."