One new provision of the 2003 Equal Pay Regulations may not be immediately obvious and it is worth describing. This is the provision for equal pay for work of equal value. This means that even when one job in a firm is only done by you, a woman, e.g. clerical or secretarial work, while another is only done by a man (e.g. heavy lifting work) it is still possible for you to claim that the abilities and academic qualifications required are roughly similar and that you should, therefore, receive equal pay. This is an important breakthrough; under it a number of clever attempts at discrimination may be successfully challenged.
Both Acts provide a similar grievance procedure; ultimately the matter can be brought before an industrial tribunal. This is a relatively informal court composed of a legally qualified chairman and two non-legal members who are experts in the particular area of industry and commerce concerned. While it may be possible to have an arbitrator from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) appointed instead of going to court, it is possible that the case may eventually go to an industrial tribunal.
As industrial tribunals have significant powers to award compensation, to demand a change in job conditions and/or demand reinstatement, an individual can in practice have substantial rights. However, it is never easy for an employee to bring a case in spite of the theoretical protection given from victimization. It will perhaps take a considerable time and a large number of test cases for truly equal employment rights for women and men to become the norm. However, even so, the protection is now substantial and women are also protected in one or two other specific areas, such as the automatic right to have maternity leave while their jobs are kept open for them.
In short, as far as women and employment law are concerned, the position has certainly improved over the last twenty years. While there is some way to go, there is every reason to believe that changes will take place in employers' general attitudes, particularly as more and more employers become women.
WOMEN'S FINANCES AND THE LAW - Quick tips
� Today the law is improving in relation to the protection of women's rights.
� It is important that women use those rights they have to the full and lobby against areas of injustice. In particular, further revision of the Married Woman's Property Acts is needed.
� Women should ensure that they remain as aware as possible of their legal rights, particularly in financial matters.
There are a number of other ways in which the law can be said to affect women and their financial rights, the most obvious of these being various provisions of the DWP benefit system and some aspects of pension legislation. These points are covered elsewhere in this website.