As the range of EU competences broaden in the field of employment and industrial relations, EU law is seen to replace national labour laws increasingly as the future progresses (Eurofound, 2011). The passing of the Equal Pay act in 1970 preceded UK’s entry to the European Union in 1973, the UK based their legislation on the article concerning equal treatment in the EU law’s Treaty of Rome. The UK’s equal pay law has been greatly influenced by the EU law. It was based on the legislation of EU law related to gender equality and economic and social policy in promoting gender equality (Figueiredo, Grimshaw and Rubery, 2005). Both laws complement each other where the EU law identifies the areas in which the UK law may provide improvement on itself and at the same time spotting areas where there be doubts about compliances (Fagan, Figueriredo, Grimshaw and Rubery, 2003). This paper aims to assess the influences brought about by the EU Law in the development of UK’s equal pay law by examining equal pay gaps particularly discussing problems concerning an increasing level of overall inequality pay, abundant part time work in the population and passive negotiations in the UK. One cause of gender pay gap in the UK is the concentration of women at the bottom of the wage distribution. Penalties for those who are at the bottom of the distribution are higher compared to those at the top thus the gap between the highly and lowly paid is huge. Upon the evaluation of the European Court of Justice, the ECJ concluded, basing on international standards, that the UK has a high level of pay inequality resulting to the creation of the National Wage Minimum through EU law directives. It was implemented in the UK system in 1999 where part-timers, mostly women benefited in such act for it protected employees at the bottom of the wage distribution (Eiornline, 1999). Secondly, the cause of the increasing amount of part-time workers in the UK is due to the lack of affordable childcare and the difficulty faced by those who have care responsibility in committing to full time work (Figueiredo, Grimshaw and Rubery, 2005). The chunk of part-timers in the UK are women who return to their jobs after maternity leaves but on a flexible time schedule. Through the EU’s commitment in improving childcare coverage the UK has been cooperative in such implementations resulting to the EU Working Time Directive (European Commission, 2011). Lastly, the low coverage of collective bargaining in the UK workforce, where it is limited and takes place only at individual company or plant level, is considered in the refinement of the equal pay law. UK trade unions often use the European legislation and policy in promoting gender equality in workforce. In their campaign for the raise of female minimum rate to that of men’s within industry, trade unions were successful in their cause by relating their argument to that of the EU’s policy in the promotion of gender equality in its social and economic prosperity goal (Figueiredo, Grimshaw and Rubery, 2005). Given the UK’s high share of women as part-time workers whom suffer the most in terms of pay penalties, the EU has greatly intervened in the development of the former’s equal pay law for it is directly associated with the EU’s legislation on its objective in promoting gender equality in its economic and social policy.
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Eurofound, 2011. Supremacy of EU Law. Web.
European Commission,2011. Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion: Working Condition – Working Time Directive. Web.
Fagan, C., Figueriredo, H., Grimshaw, D., and Rubery, J., 2003. The Costs of Non-Equality: The UK Report. Web.
Figueiredo, H., Grimshaw, D., and Rubery, J., 2005. How to Close the Gender Pay Gap in Europe: Towards the Mainstreaming of Pay Policy. Industrial Relations Journal, 36(3), pp.184-213.