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Legal insights & industry updates

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Labour proposal to extend the equal pay regime, if elected

As reported by The Guardian, a future Labour government is proposing it would extend the equal pay regime, currently based on sex, to include race and disability, if elected. 

Under the party's plans, a new Race Equality Act would enshrine in law the full right to equal pay for black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) workers, as well as disabled workers.

Its proposals would also address what they describe as "dual discrimination", allowing employees to bring a single claim if they feel they have been subject to, for example, both sexism and racism.

The Guardian reports that the new legislation would be brought into effect following consultation with business groups and unions and would involve a phased introduction to give employers time to adapt pay practices, with back pay only available from when the law changes.


The principle that women and men are entitled to equal pay for equal work is set out in the Equality Act 2010 (the “EA”). Whilst there is no formal right to raise a specific equal pay claim under the legislation for those with other protected characteristics such as race or disability, employees can bring a claim for direct or indirect discrimination if they are paid less on the grounds of a protected characteristic.

Equal pay claims are more complex than direct discrimination claims with a requirement to identify an actual comparator employed doing equal work, as opposed to a hypothetical comparator in a direct discrimination claim. Therefore, without full detail of the new proposals, it remains to be seen whether the proposed change will provide additional protection to BAME and disabled workers than is currently afforded under the EA, or whether this will simply be a change that complicates existing protections. 

The new proposal for “dual discrimination” will also require further detail before its impact can be fully assessed. Under the EA it is possible for an employee to bring a claim of discrimination for one act on the grounds of two or more protected characteristics. It is presently unclear how exactly the new proposal would impact claims of those nature, particularly as dual discrimination provisions were included in the EA, but never enacted. 

With a general election expected to take place before the end of 2024, we can expect to see further detail provided upon publication of manifestos prior to a general election.

A Labour government would extend the full right to equal pay that now exists for women to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) workers for the first time under radical plans for a draft race equality act seen by The Guardian.


employment law