HC Deb 02 March 1976 vol 906 cc582-3W
Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied that employers are now implementing fully the terms of the Equal Pay Act; and whether he will make specific inquiries of firms in Fife, and especially in Glenrothes.

Mr. Booth

In his reply to a Question by my hon. Friend on 2nd December 1975—[Vol. 901, c. 511]—my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary said that the evidence available to him suggested that most employers already complied with the Equal Pay Act or had plans to do so by the end of 1975. It is too early to make an assessment of how the Act is working in practice. However, where an individual woman believes that she is not getting what she is entitled to under the Act she can make an application to an industrial tribunal. During the period 29th December 1975 to February 1976 about 750 women exercised this right.

I have no powers to conduct inquiries under the Equal Pay Act. If my hon. Friend believes that there have been breaches of the Act in his constituency or elsewhere there are a number of ways in which they can be dealt with. First the women concerned can be encouraged to apply to an industrial tribunal for a decision. At the tribunal hearing the person making the complaint can be represented by anyone she chooses. In particular the Equal Opportunities Commission has the power to assist and represent individual complainants or prospective complainants in specified circumstances.

Secondly, the Commission has powers to conduct formal investigations for any purposes connected with its duties, which include a general duty to work towards the elimination of discrimination.

Thirdly, my right hon. Friend has the power to make a reference to an industrial tribunal himself where it appears to him that a woman has a claim to equal treatment but that it is not reasonable to expect her to make the reference herself. If my hon. Friend wishes my right hon. Friend to use this power in a particular case I should be pleased if he would write setting out full details of the case and the reason why he considers it is not reasonable to expect the woman concerned to make the reference herself.

Finally, my right hon. Friend has the power to refer employers' pay structures which contain discriminatory references to women to the Central Arbitration Committee for a declaration of the amendments needing to be made. My right hon. Friend will consider referring such pay structures to the Committee provided that he has adequate details of them and an indication of the provisions in them which are believed to be discriminatory.