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Equal Pay for Equal Work

The phrase Equal pay for Equal Work means that every individual who has been employed for the work which is allotted to him should be given sufficient pay as that of the others. There should not be any discrimination while payment of wage. It is most commonly used in the context of sexual discrimination, in relation to the gender pay gap.

The temporary workers who are working the shifts instead of the permanent workers should get the same remuneration as that of the permanent workers is a rule and a right for the individual for getting the same. Mere difference in nomenclature would not dis-entitle an employee from being paid the same wages as permanent employees. Any act of paying less wages as compared to others similarly situated, constitutes an act of exploitative enslavement.

The equal pay is governed under the Equality Act of 2010 which gives a right to equal pay between women and men for equal work. This covers individuals in the same employment, and includes equality in pay and all other contractual terms.

The provision in the Act states that the right of women and men to receive equal pay for equal work applies to:
  • all employees (including apprentices and those working from home), whether on full-time, part-time, casual or temporary contracts, regardless of length of service,
  • other workers (example: self-employed) whose contracts require personal performance of the work.
The Supreme Court has given a judgement based on it in the case of State of Punjab and Ors. v. Jagjit Singh and ors wherein it was held that an employee engaged for the same work cannot be paid less than another who performs the same duties and responsibilities and certainly not in a welfare state.

Such an action besides being demeaning, strikes at the very foundation of human dignity. Anyone who is compelled to work at a lesser wage does not do so voluntarily he or she does so to provide food and shelter to his or her family, at the cost of his or her self-respect and dignity, at the cost of his or her self-worth, and at the cost of his or her integrity.

Any act of paying less wages as compared to others similarly situated, constitutes an act of exploitative enslavement, emerging out of a domineering position. Undoubtedly, the action is oppressive, suppressive and coercive, as it compels involuntary subjugation.

The SC further observed that India being a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966, there is no escape from the obligations thereunder in view of the different provisions of the Constitution. Thus, the principle of equal pay for equal work constitutes a clear and unambiguous right and is vested in every employee, whether engaged on a permanent or temporary basis.
Equal pay for equal work is not a constitutional right or a fundamental right.

It can be described through the interpretations of Article 14,15 ad 16 which guarantees fundamental rights of equality before law,protection against any kind of discrimination and equal opportunities in the matters of public employment. The UDHR( Universal Declaration of Human Rights) states that without any discrimination made has the right to pay for equal work.

The preamble of the Constitution of International Labor Organization proclaims the principle of equal remuneration for equal work. Article 4(3) of the European Social Charter which provides the right to fair remuneration and includes the recognition of right to men and women workers to equal pay. This has been considered as a good practise by various organizations including the United Nations. The Indian Constitutions has also made several other Acts for protecting the individuals from irrational way of payment for the work that they have done.

The Equal remuneration Act 1976 has been significant government step towards equal pay for equal work. This Act was mainly passed with the point of giving equivalent compensation to men and women laborers and to forestall segregation based on sexual orientation in all issues identifying with business and work openings or opportunities. This enactment not just gives women a privilege to request equivalent compensations, yet any imbalance concerning enlistment forms, work preparing, advancement and moves inside the association can likewise be challenged in the Court of Law.

Organizations and individual employers can both be considered responsible to keep the guidelines endorsed under this Act.Despite thee fact that in the greater part of the government employments there are equivalent wages for equivalent work, this is not valid for private segment occupations. There is still a separation in the private division particularly in low paid occupations and in sloppy segments or the unorganized sectors which is not sorted out as indicated by government standards.

The Minimum Wages Act provides a statutory fixation for minimum wages working in specified employments since workers are poorly organized and have a less bargaining power. The minimum wage is reviewed and revised after fixed interval of five years.

With the same ideology the Workmen's Compensation Act was also enacted with the aim of providing proper financial protection to the workmen and his or her dependents in case of accidental injury arising out of and in course of employment by means of payment of compensation by certain class of employers. Because of the differences in bargaining power there are chances that the women may be subject to exploitation. This act helps to avoid that risk and also it has been amend from time to time to meet the requirements of the dynamic society.

The Equal Remuneration Act 1976 (ERA), a legislation in India dealing with equal pay for equal work for men and women, was repealed in August 2019, and replaced by the Code on Wages 2019(Code). This could have been used as an opportunity to fill crucial gaps in the legal regime dealing with pay equality in India. Unfortunately, the opportunity has been squandered.

Case Laws:
The guidelines for equal pay for equal work was considered in the case of Kishori Mohanlal Bakshi Vs Union Of India where the Supreme Court announced it unequipped for being implemented in the court of law. Nevertheless, it got due acknowledgement in 1987 through the Mackinnon Mackenzie's case where the issue in hand was a case of equivalent compensation for both male and female stenographers.

The Court decided in favour of women stenographers as the court was supportive of the principle of equal pay for equal work. There were misinterpretations for the said principles as it was held in the case S. Narkara Vs Union of India the court was of the opinion that Article 38(d) of the Indian Constitution that the state will endeavour to limit the imbalances in pay and attempt to take out disparities in status, offices and openings among people as well as among gatherings of individuals living in various territories with various livelihood.

In Markendeya vs. State of Andhra Pradesh, difference in pay scale, between graduate supervisors holding degree in Engineering and non-graduate supervisors being diploma and licence holders was upheld. It was held that on the basis of difference in educational qualifications such difference in pay scales was justified and would not offend Article 14 and 16. The Court pointed out that where two classes of employees perform identical or similar duties and carry out the same functions with the same measure of responsibility having the same academic qualifications, they would be entitled to equal pay.

Principle of equal pay for equal work is applicable among equals. It can't be applied to unequal. Thus, daily rated workers can't be equated with regular employees of the State in the matter of wages. There are differences of qualifications, age, and manner of selection between the two categories of employees.

The International Labour Organization has, from the outset accepted and, on several occasion, reaffirmed the principle of equal remuneration for men and women doing work of equal value. The question has been in the limelight particularly during and since the war, although the issue is by no means a new one.

During the Second World War, women replaced in a great many occupation or were employed in new occupation, and large numbers of women were drawn into the employment market to meet urgent demands for labour, particularly in war industries. At that time, the problem of equal remuneration was primarily considered as that of protecting men's wages and of preventing their being leveled down by the employment of women at lower rate. In most countries, female labour forms a substantial proportion of the total labour force, whether the economy of the country is predominantly agricultural or industrial in character.

Moreover, efforts are being made in many countries, where industrialization or economic planning is developing, to make better use of female labour either by drawing new supplies of such labour into the employment market, or by redistributing the existing supply, or by both methods.

In concluding this topic every individual no matter regarding their gender, cast, religion should be given proper pay for the work that they have put in the efforts for and the pay should be reasonable.

Written By: Hari Bharadhwaj - 2nd Year BCom LLB Sastra University Thanjavur

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