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The changing face of employment relations: equality and diversity

The changing face of employment relations: equality and diversity

Moore, Sian and Tailby, Stephanie (2015) The changing face of employment relations: equality and diversity. Employee Relations, 37 (6). pp. 705-719. ISSN 0142-5455 (doi:

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Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore what has happened to the notion and reality of equal pay over the past 50 years, a period in which women have become the majority of trade union members in the UK. It does so in the context of record employment levels based upon women’s increased labour market participation albeit reflecting their continued over-representation in part-time employment, locating the narrowed but persistent overall gender pay gap in the broader picture of pay inequality in the UK.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper considers voluntary and legal responses to inequality and the move away from voluntary solutions in the changed environment for unions. Following others it discusses the potential for collective bargaining to be harnessed to equality in work, a potential only partially realised by unions in a period in which their capacity to sustain collective bargaining was weakened. It looks at the introduction of a statutory route to collective bargaining in 2000, the National Minimum Wage from 1999 and at the Equality Act 2010 as legislative solutions to inequality and in terms of radical and liberal models of equality.

Findings – The paper suggests that fuller employment based upon women’s increased labour market activity have not delivered an upward pressure on wages and has underpinned rather than closed pay gaps and social divisions. Legal measures have been limited in the extent to which they have secured equal pay and wider social equality, whilst state support for collective solutions to equality has waned. Its replacement by a statutory minimum wage initially closed pay gaps, but appears to have run out of steam as employers accommodate minimum hourly rates through the reorganisation of working time.

Social implications – The paper suggests that statutory minima or even voluntary campaigns to lift hourly wage rates may cut across and even supersede wider existing collective bargaining agreements and as such they can reinforce the attack on collective bargaining structures, supporting arguments that this can reduce representation over pay, but also over a range of other issues at work (Ewing and Hendy, 2013), including equality.

Originality/value – There are then limitations on a liberal model which is confined to promoting equality at an organisational level in a public sector subject to wider market forces. The fragmentation of bargaining and representation that has resulted will continue if the proposed dismantling of public services goes ahead and its impact upon equality is already suggested in the widening of the gender pay gap in the public sector in 2015.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Gender, Labour market, Government policy, Equality, Collective bargaining, Trade union recognition
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU)
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2020 15:27

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