On the day a new film is released that tells the story of how a group of 1960s women fought for equal pay, today's workers have won new rights that will help to stamp out pay discrimination.
Most provisions of the 2010 Equality Act take effect from today (1 October), including a measure to stop pay secrecy clauses being used to hide unfair differences between what men and women are paid.
The change in the law coincides with the release of "Made in Dagenham," a British film about the women of the Ford assembly plant in East London who, in 1968, launched a campaign to demand equal pay. Their actions led to the creation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act.
Around 90 per cent of the Act comes into force today, making the law simpler by bringing together nine pieces of legislation under a single banner. The Government will announce in due course its plans for the remaining parts of the Equality Act not due to be implemented on 1 October.
Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality Theresa May met four of the original strikers last week (visit Youtube to watch a video). She said:
"Thanks to pioneers like the women who feature in "Made in Dagenham," the workplace is much fairer than it was in 1968. But there is still plenty of room for improvement.
"In these challenging economic times it's more important than ever for employers to make the most of all the talent available. When a company reflects the society it serves, it's better for the employer, the employees and the customers, so being a woman should never be a barrier to being treated fairly at work.
"From today the gagging clauses that stop people discussing their pay with their colleagues will be unenforceable, allowing women - and men - to find out if they're being paid unfairly.
"This move towards transparency is just one part of the Equality Act, which also makes it easier for businesses to comply with discrimination law by streamlining the equality laws, and provides more protection to disabled people."
The Act brings together nine different laws - including the Equal Pay Act - into a single piece of legislation, simplifying the law and reducing the administrative burden on businesses.
Please contact the Government Equalities Office press office on 020 7035 3535. Outside office hours call 07500 816 959.
Notes for Editors
1. The nine pieces of legislation being brought together under the 2010 Equality Act are:
* Equal Pay Act (1970)
* Sex Discrimination Act (1975)
* Race Relations Act (1976)
* Disability Discrimination Act (1995)
* Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations (2003)
* Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2003)
* Employment Equality (Age) Regulations (2006)
* Equality Act (2006)
* Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (2007)
2. Key changes to the law being introduced today include:
* Making pay secrecy "gagging" clauses unenforceable. This will protect employees who choose to discuss their pay with each other for the purposes of uncovering discrimination.
* Extra protection for disabled people. The new law restricts the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health prior to offering them a position, making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out.
* New powers for employment tribunals. Where an employment tribunal finds that an employer has discriminated against an employee, the tribunal will be allowed to make recommendations that could affect the whole workforce - for example, calling for harassment policies to be more effectively implemented - instead of being restricted to measures that will benefit the employee who brought the action.
* Extending protection from third party harassment to all protected characteristics, meaning employers have a responsibility to protect their staff, where possible, from harassment by customers.
For a full list, visit http://www.equalities.gov.uk/equality_act_2010.aspx
3. Frequently asked questions about the Act are answered here:
4. Guides explaining what the Equality Act means for employers, employees and the general public are available here:
5. To watch a video of the real Dagenham strikers meeting equalities minister Theresa May 42 years after they met employment minister Barbara Castle, visit the Home Office Youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7S2PY7oHY7k
To embed the video, just copy the code from the "Embed" box-you can find it in the "About This Video" box when you're watching the video. Once you've copied the code, just paste it into your website or blog to embed it.
Download photos of Theresa May meeting some of the original Dagenham Strikers from the Home Office flickr channel here:
Phone: For enquiries please contact the issuing dept