Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-106)|
2 MARCH 2005
Q100 Chairman: It needs to be deemed
to be a class action. It is a comparatively new concept in this
country. There is now, under competition law, a provision for
it but it is not in labour law yet.
Ms Dawson: It is a more common
means of going forward in the United States.
Chairman: That is because the United
States is a more litigious society.
Q101 Judy Mallaber: On the question of
making equal pay audits compulsory, is there any evidence that
employers take any action, let alone any helpful action, once
they have done their audits?
Ms McCulloch: None.
Ms Dawson: Most of this has been
done in the finance sector. We have not done in our sector.
Ms McCulloch: Barclays Bank have
been pretty good at carrying out equal pay audits but, once they
have gathered the information, they have done absolutely nothing
Q102 Judy Mallaber: Is there any advantage
in making the audits compulsory?
Ms McCulloch: What we are saying
is that we need pay audits made compulsory, with a follow-up in
legislation and a remedy to address the situation once we have
Ms Dawson: One thing that would
help would be equality reps with the same kinds of rights as health
and safety or learning reps. If you get equal pay audits in, you
need people in the workplace with some idea of what is all about
and how to take it forward within the workplace. We already have
things in place to start training those reps. You need these different
levers to act together. The equality reps would be the means of
pushing forward within the workplace, once the right was there
to have the audits done.
Q103 Judy Mallaber: The finance sector
is very interesting. I saw a very good project in the United States
that was trying to get women who are on welfare into the finance
sector. There was a very positive promotion to see how they could
be linked into finance jobs. I believe that has been tried in
some parts of East London with a similar project. Would you think
that if you take an initiative like that in one part of a sector
like the finance sector, there is then more hope of spreading
that out and saying: once they are in there, can you break down
some of the barriers to them rising through the ranks?
Ms McCulloch: I think traditionally
the finance sector has been so secretive with regard to its rates
of pay and people are promoted on an individual basis. If you
happen to be doing particularly well, you get a higher pay rise
than somebody sitting next to you who might be doing the same
job. It is very much a case of whether your face fits or not.
When people within the finance sector are given a wage increase,
they are told they cannot talk about it or speak to their colleagues
about it. There is a lot of secrecy around the finance sector
and the rates of pay within it. That is why we are finding it
so difficult to tackle.
Q104 Judy Mallaber: Is that true in the
big traditional banks as well as the Stock Exchange?
Ms McCulloch: Traditionally, if
you look at the bigger banks, women are coming in at lower grades
and it is harder for them to progress up through the grades than
it is for a male.
Q105 Judy Mallaber: What about a more
open area like the health service? Agenda for Change: as you have
said, it looks at equal pay and equal value but it does not actually
tackle occupational segregation. Do you think that, by virtue
of having that more integrated pay structure, there is the potential
for breaking down some of those job barriers into the future?
If so, having been through all the effort of four years' of negotiation
to get Agenda for Change in place, what steps might the union
be thinking of taking to break down some of those barriers into
the future to encourage that to happen?
Ms Dawson: What you have to look
at in anything like Agenda for Change is that it is not a one-off
prescription. You have to keep reviewing the process. You will
always find, whether it is a job evaluation scheme or whatever,
that those old barriers will reassert themselves over a period
of time. People find out how the system works and then it starts
reasserting itself. In all these situations, there has to be constant
review. I think you were asking if best practice could be spread
elsewhere. I think we can only say "yes" hypothetically
because we have not had the opportunity to try it. One of my big
problems in a sector with a lot of small companies is trying to
find any examples of small companies to use to convince other
small companies that it can work. Anything that can be done to
gather that kind of best practice together so that we can use
it would always be helpful. In general terms, I think you are
right, but we have not actually had the opportunity to try that.
Q106 Judy Mallaber: Is there any role
for government or any public institutions in precisely generating
or assisting some of those good practice examples? We are looking
for recommendations for action that we can make. Can you give
us any guidance on that?
Ms Dawson: Publicity is one thing
that can always come from the Government. I think some of the
partnership projects can be quite helpful when you are targeting
certain things. Money was available for projects on bullying and
harassment. Maybe there needs to be some consideration about whether
it could be used in other areas of equality, like bringing flexibility
into companies. Perhaps partnership projects could be encouraged
there. The only way to do it on a larger scale than just the individual
is to encourage a situation where the trade unions and the employers
can work together to find solutions to whatever the problems of
flexibility are. At the moment, there is a bit of resistance to
that. We are only able to take up the issues in any concrete way
when somebody comes to us with a complaint. It is reactive and
not proactive. It is about trying to change that agenda round.
It is like the duty to promote equality: it is trying to change
it around to a proactive role instead of a reactive one.
Chairman: Thank you very much. That is
very helpful. We may want to follow up on one or two points with
you. If you have any examples you feel you should have given,
then please drop us a line. Examples are always useful to illustrate
the points when we make our report. Thank you very much.