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1975: New laws to end battle of the sexes
Radical new legislation introducing a woman's right to equal pay and status in the workplace and in society have come into force in the UK.

The Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Acts will prevent women being paid less than their male counterparts. The Acts are being introduced to coincide with the end of the International Women's Year.

Sex discrimination by employers, unless they employ five or fewer people, is now illegal as is any form of bias by landlords, finance companies, schools and restaurants.

The Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) has been set up, and under the Act it has a duty to promote equality of the sexes.

Job advertisements will now have to be sexless and it will no longer be possible to offer a position exclusively for males or females.

In every day language there will be many changes for example, such as "firemen" becoming "fire fighters".

'Toothless'

The impact of the Acts is far-reaching and affects the media and education.

The EOC has begun issuing guidelines to discourage advertisers showing women in stereotypical roles of domesticity or in submissive work.

But with no means of enforcing this there have been criticisms the organisation is toothless, although many advertisers have taken heed and plan to be more representative.

The Inner London Education Authority is already considering the replacement of "sexist" reading material which uphold stereotypes, for example a woman in the kitchen and a man at work.

These are currently not barred by the Acts but in a booklet sent to 13,000 head teachers, managers and governors of schools the authority recommends "myths and taboos" should be tackled.

Advisory panels of teachers are also considering lobbying authorities to make mathematics compulsory up to the fifth year in a move designed to help girls.

But the most poorly-paid women are unlikely to gain a lot from the new legislation the Low Pay Unit said in a report yesterday.

Despite the gradual introduction of equal pay until its final implementation today women's earnings have risen to only 55.5% of men's earnings from 51.1% in 1972.

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Sex Discrimination Act 1975 pamphlets
The Act will change everyday language


In Context
The Sex Discrimination Act is applicable to men, women, and children of any age and also prohibits discrimination against someone who is or is not married.

The Act came as a culture shock to many in a society where some venues still barred women.

Some employers attempted to circumvent the Equal Pay Act by changing women's job descriptions or employing women for roles in which there was no male equivalent position.

But they faced fierce resistance from the authorities.

Many commentators said the combined Acts were too radical to introduce at once and public attitudes would need to change before they were readily implemented and this would take time.

Twenty five years after its implementation a survey showed the Acts had helped close the pay difference in the gender gap from 40% less than male counterparts, to 20%.

Stories From 29 Dec


 
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