Changing Lives and New Challenges
Edited by Jacqueline Scott, Shirley Dex and Heather Joshi
Chapter 13: The Regulation of Women’s Pay: From Individual Rights to Reflexive Law?
13. The regulation of women’s pay: from individual rights to reﬂexive law? Simon Deakin and Colm McLaughlin 1 INTRODUCTION Legislation mandating equality of pay between women and men was among the earliest forms of sex discrimination legislation to be adopted in Britain. The Equal Pay Act 1970 pre-dated the more general prohibition on sex discrimination in employment by ﬁve years. It was introduced prior to the UK’s membership of the European Community (EC) and at a point when the EC, although it had a treaty provision governing pay equality between women and men, had no directive on the subject, and prior to the judgments of the European Court of Justice which opened up the ﬁeld of equality law in the course of the 1970s. If the model for the UK Act was more American than European, the federal Congress having passed an equal pay law in 1963 and the more extensive Civil Rights Act in 1965, the British measure was, in important respects, sui generis. It relied on a combination of individual claims and collective dispute resolution mechanisms to achieve its objectives, and was initially successful in combining legal remedies and pre-existing features of the industrial relations system to close the pay gap. In the 1980s and 1990s, when collective bargaining was being eclipsed, individual litigation increasingly took its place, encouraged by developments in European Union (EU) law and backed by strategic support from the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) in key cases.1 This did not simply lead to the...
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