At present the Equal Pay Act (NI) does not impose any positive legal duty on employers that requires them to carry out equal pay audits to identify pay inequalities or to take remedial action.
The Equality Commission encourages all employers to be proactive in that way, but for the time being that is only a recommendation of good practice.
Employment Act (NI) 2016
For some employers, this may change as a result of section 19 of the Employment Act (NI) 2016. The latter has not yet come into force, but when it does it will impose a duty on the Northern Ireland Executive to make a new set of statutory regulations which, when passed, will impose new duties (described below) on some employers.
Section 19 of the Employment Act (NI) 2016 does not specify which employers will have to comply with the new duties.
The duties that the regulations will apply to the affected employers are to:
- publish information about the pay received by their workforces
- publish that information periodically – every 12 to 36 months, possibly
- develop action plans to eliminate any gender pay differences that are found
The regulations will specify further details about what information is to be collected and published.
A breach of duties imposed by the regulations will be a criminal offence and offenders will be liable to financial penalties of up to £5,000 per employee.