Northern Ireland left out of new equal pay for women laws

Today, an Equalities Bill is published by Harriet Harman the Minister for Women that among many other things requires all firms employing 250 workers or more to publish their hourly rates of pay. This is to put pressure on firms to close the 20% pay gap between men and women that still exists in the UK, 40 years after Barbara Castle’s Equal Pay Act. For GB, equality issues are still mainly a Westminster matter. The Scottish government has its own anti-discrimination programme in the public services it runs and it asks for some cross border and other measures to be part of the UK Bill under the Sewell convention. This allows Westminster to legislate for a devolved area with the relevant Administration’s consent. Equality laws are not part of Welsh devolution but the Bill allows ministers there to add on their own bits.

Equality in Northern Ireland is different – don’t we know it? – and most equality matters are devolved, unlike Scotland and Wales. Unless I’ve got it wrong,
a local Bill only extends disability and a few other measures without tackling mainstream gender equality in pay in the pubic and private sectors. GB industry, jibbing at alleged extra costs involved got the Bill watered down to remain voluntary until a 2013 review. Has NI industry and business escaped altogether or is the Executive asleep on the job again? Can someone please clarify? Details from the Bill’s explanatory notes ( see under Territorial extent and application)


The Bill contains provisions that trigger the Sewel Convention in relation to Scotland. The Scottish Ministers can already impose specific equality duties on Scottish public authori-ties and on the devolved functions of cross-border authorities following appropriate consultation. Provisions in this Bill will replicate this situation. The Scottish Ministers will be able to impose specific duties on relevant Scottish authorities (clause 147) and by order to amend Part 3 of Schedule 19 which lists the relevant Scottish authorities to which the general public sector equality duty applies (clause 145).

Clause 2 of the Bill provides a power for Welsh Ministers to add any relevant Welsh authority to the authorities subject to the duty in clause 1 to consider socio-economic inequalities. The Bill also confers powers on the Welsh Ministers in relation to the public sector equality duty.

Equal opportunities and discrimination are “transferred matters” under the Northern Ireland Act 1998. As such, with a few exceptions the Bill does not form part of the law of Northern Ireland

  • New Blue

    Gosh, if only we had a voice in Westminister that was actually listened to, maybe our legislation would be able to catch up more quickly.

    But sure, as long as we vote for the orange or the green then we get what we truly deserve.

    Not wanting to sound like a party political broadcast but, let’s face it, our wee Assembly, with it’s two bully (sorry party) system is pants no?

  • Danny Boy

    Tis pants indeed. And I’m sure that ‘GB industry’ will work very hard on voluntarily paying people fairly, as they’ve had forty bloody years to think about it.

  • Guppy

    Devolution has always meant being left out of progressive reforms. Get used to it or become an integrationist.

  • Braveheart

    New Blue is absolutely right.Too many of our MP’s have dual mandates and are only there for the money and the expenses.

    Can’t wait for the next General Election,when the new Conservative Government under David Cameron will sort this out once and for all.

  • SM

    Ah the delights of the nonsense which passes for “politics” in our wee province. Left behind to fester with the DUP/SF coalition as usual!

    Roll on some change…

    PS: Just thinking – the pants comment above could lead to some strange images combining Pantsman from the Apprentice and the some of our folks on the hill 😉

  • New Blue

    Love the idea SM – can I sell the BBC the idea of ‘The Pants on the Hill’ – we can split the proceeds?

  • SM

    I’m sure we could come to an arrangement 🙂

  • joeCanuck

    Here’s my equality story. My first wife worked for the N.I. Civil Service. The day we got married she had to resign her position because, under the law then existing, the C.S. were not allowed to employ married women. That was in 1967.

  • deirdre

    Not much of a surprise really. After all, women are only there to make the tea, aren’t we??

  • Danny Boy

    Don’t forget women’s alternate incubation and sex-prevention duties there Deirdre. It’s a full time job bearing full responsibility for the whims of every penis on the planet.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The legislation, whatever is agreed, should be enacted all over the UK, there is no place for discrimation of any kind.

    If we leave it to the DUP/SF axis of stasis we will have no equality for anyone in their never ending zero sum game.

  • Ciaran

    Equality and anti-discrimination is one of the policy areas that was devolved to the NI Assembly under Devolution and the department with responsibility is OFMDFM. So, if we are to get a corresponding Single Equality law here it is for our own institutions to enact it. During the first attempt at Devolution OFMDFM considered drafting a Single Equality Bill for NI and a public consultation took place, but ultimately it came to nothing when Devolution was suspended. OFMDFM does not appear to have any immediate plans to kick start the process again. You can still find information about the previous attempt at the website of OFMDFM’s Equality Unit.

  • The Raven

    “OFMDFM does not appear to have any immediate plans to kick start the process again.”

    Does it have plans to kick start anything, come to think of it….?

  • wild turkey

    ‘Does it have plans to kick start anything, come to think of it….? ‘

    Ah c,mon Raven. Where have been you been the last few years. The fundamental remit of OFMDFM is to kick things into touch. On a related note, anyone have any ideas how much the above mentioned Single Equality bill and associated consultation cost? For example, I believe the Equality Commission spend considerable staff and other resources on the single equality bill. So in summary, where’s the bill and,uh, whats the bill to date?

    PS I think I’ll use this as a single transferable comment next time there is a post on NI public sector budgets and efficiency savings.

  • guillaume

    I think it’s called the good friday agreement/belfast agreement.Nothing will be decided until everything is decided.Get over it.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    The Equality Commission doesn’t have equality in its workforce either on a religious or sex basis, it has too many Catholic women apparently.

    What hope is there for the rest of the country?

  • willowfield


    Here’s my equality story. My first wife worked for the N.I. Civil Service. The day we got married she had to resign her position because, under the law then existing, the C.S. were not allowed to employ married women. That was in 1967.

    Abolished in the early 70s.

    Interestingly, the rule was in place at the request of the women’s civil service union.

  • danielmoran

    frustrated democrat…. since they opted to go in to executive with the duplicity party, the shinners have a lot to answer for, allowing these backward fundies to prance about on the political stage. wilson and campbell must be the least fitted for any office, but then, the dup gene pool is on the shallow side. so what else to expect

  • blinding

    Does this mean that we could have less expensive politicians if they were all female.

    More Women in NI politics I say but of coures on equal terms.