18 January 2008
Trades unions have backed the call by Trevor Phillips, chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for the 1970 Equal Pay Act to be replaced with new legislation to get women a fairer and quicker deal.
Calling for negotiation rather than litigation, Phillips highlighted the 50,000 equal pay cases being brought by local council workers. The commission estimates this figure will rise to 150,000 this year and clog the employment tribunal system 'like a blocked drain'.
Phillips said: 'These women deserve justice now, not justice in another decade. I wish I could wave a magic wand and sort this crisis out, but it's far from simple. The Equal Pay Act has reached its sell-by date.
'It's time for new legislation, fit for this century, to sort out this age-old problem.'
The commission is proposing using representative actions where hundreds of similar cases could be heard simultaneously. This would reduce the number of cases by more than 90%.
Sarah Veale, head of equalities and employment rights at the Trades Union Congress, said: 'The Equal Pay Act is out of date and in urgent need of reform.'