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Construction exposed by equality law

SEX DISCRIMINATION could cost contractors and consultants vital government contracts under tough proposals published last week by the Equal Opportunities Commission.

If backed by the Government, new laws will also make it easier for women to sue employers if they are overlooked for promotion or refused jobs.

Proposals for the new Sex Equality Law are listed in an EOC document Equality in the 21st century* published last Thursday. If adopted, the law will put pressure on contractors and consultants, most of which employ few women even at junior levels.

EOC figures show construction employs less women than any industrial sector except mining and quarrying. Last year women accounted for just 13% of the industry's work- force of 1M. This compares with public admin- istration, education and health, where 70% of the sector's 5.9M employees are women.

Under the proposals, employers would have to show that they pay women the same as men for equivalent work. They would also be assumed to be guilty of sex discrimination unless they can prove their innocence.

The Sex Equality Law would entitle women to at least 18 weeks paid maternity leave provided they have worked for the same employer for a year. At present they are entitled to 14 weeks maternity leave, after two years service.

* From EOC, tel: (0161) 835 1657. www.eoc. org.uk

See Profile, page 9.

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