To commemorate forty years since the implementation of British and European legislation on equal pay the CJE held a symposium on 7-8 June in Cambridge with a view to publishing a special issue on the question of Equal Pay: Fair Pay?
This special issue marks the significant milestone achievements of 1975. On the 29 December 1975, the Equal Pay Act (1970) was implemented in the UK. The act came into force after a long and bitter industrial conflict for recognition of equal pay rights by the women workers at the Ford factory in Dagenham, UK. In the same year, the Sex Discrimination Act (1975) sought to prevent sex discrimination in employment more generally. At the European level, Council Directive 75/117/EEC of 10 February 1975 was implemented, requiring the approximation of member states' laws relating to equal pay.
Since this early and hard-fought-for legislation was enacted, there has been a growing body of statute, employment tribunal and legal decisions to address anomalies in the initial legislation and to broaden and clarify issues around forms of discrimination and recognition of equality. A recent stream of equal pay cases in the UK has resulted in very large compensation payments.
Equal Pay legislation triggered a step change in policy and practice towards gender pay inequalities in the UK and beyond. Yet, despite some early successes and subsequent legislative measures, the stubbornness of the gender pay gap persists. Extensions of equality legislation have also gone beyond the demands for equal pay to include equal treatment, fair pay and anti-discrimination policies. These issues have been taken up in many countries as exemplified by the Fair Work Act (2009) in Australia, the living wage movement as a focus for migrant workers in the US and the UK, Parité in France, and the Equal Pay Day in Germany.