IT women get to check pay parity

Female IT professionals can now use new laws to challenge inequality in the workplace.

Female IT professionals can now use new laws to challenge inequality in the workplace.

The Employment Act, which takes effect this week, gives workers a range of new rights on equal pay and flexible working.

The introduction of equal pay questionnaires gives employees the right to ask for information when they believe a colleague of the opposite sex is being paid more for the same work or work of equal value.

Women are under-represented in IT, and many female IT professionals believe their pay and conditions are significantly worse than those of male colleagues.

Colina Greenwood, director in people services at Klegal, the law firm associated with consultancy KPMG, warned IT directors not to ignore the new law or simply expect human resources departments to address the issue.

"IT is a male-dominated environment and if women think they are being discriminated against they can take action that could end up in an employment tribunal," she said.

Greenwood urged IT directors to do a quick but thorough assessment of staff terms and conditions. "It is worth asking searching questions. Where genuine issues are uncovered you should settle them quickly," she said.

However, Greenwood cautioned against carrying out a wholesale audit. "If you do an audit and discrepancies are found, the onus is on you to do something about it," she said.

There can be good reasons why some people are paid more than others, for example, recruitment difficulties, Greenwood said. "Equal pay cases take a long time and are arduous," she warned.

A systems administrator with 15 years in the industry welcomed the law but said, "I have always been lower-paid than my male colleagues. The law might help, but I would be nervous about pushing the issue here because of the attitude of my managers."

Peter Skyte, national secretary of the Amicus MSF trade union, called on employers to address the issue before staff take up grievances. "Pay systems should be transparent and where companies refuse to carry out equal pay audits, employees should seriously question whether they have something to hide," he said.

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