It’s unlawful to be paid less than somebody of the opposite sex who carries out ‘equal work’ to you. According to the Equality Act 2010, employers are prohibited from discriminating in this way.
If you feel you’re not being paid equally and should be, it’s important to seek advice and take necessary action. Call us free on 0808 164 0808.
Regarding equal pay, the Equality Act 2010 covers the following contractual elements:
• Salary, hourly rate and bonuses
• Contractual benefits
• Working hours
• Employment benefits
• Sick pay and holiday entitlement
• Redundancy pay
It’s important to note that your employer cannot prohibit you from conversing with colleagues to discern any differences in pay. Any threats of disciplinary action in these circumstances are unlawful.
Before you take action, it’s important to fully understand your situation. You may be in a role that isn’t classed as ‘equal work’ to someone else’s of the opposite sex, meaning your claim could be invalid. But what constitutes as ‘equal work’? Read below for more information.
Employers should pay male and female employees equally if their roles fall under one of the following categories:
- ‘Like work’ – work that is either exactly the same or very similar. Any differences in the job role must not be significant. It matters what the actual day-to-day job role is as opposed to what is detailed in the job description. So, even if the job description differs, if the role in reality does not, this can be seen as comparable.
- ‘Work rated as equivalent’ – work that is rated the same according to job evaluation schemes. This is where the job itself may be different, with varying tasks and priorities, but is rated as equivalent in job evaluation schemes. Work rated as equivalent includes a broad selection of roles, so it’s always best to seek advice if you feel you’re at an unfair disadvantage regarding this.
- ‘Work of equal value’ – where job roles have equal demands, but the work is different. It is worth noting that this is the most difficult heading to bring a claim for equal pay.
Speak with your employer
It may be worth speaking with your employer in the first instance. A reminder that they have to pay you equally could work, and would prevent you needing to take any further legal action. But this isn’t always the case, and you may find that speaking with your employer doesn’t solve anything. In which case, you may decide to bring an equal pay claim.
Bringing an equal pay claim
To bring an equal pay claim, you need to determine a ‘comparator’, or ‘comparators’ of the opposite sex. The comparator is essentially your proof of receiving unequal pay, and needs to be or have been employed by your employer. The comparator does not necessarily need to work in the same location as you; many businesses have hubs in different parts of the UK, so in this instance your employer would need to outline the terms and conditions of your differing locations. If your comparator works as a different location within the business, there will need to be common terms and conditions between your place of work and their place of work in these circumstances.
Choosing your comparator(s)
This is a decision that needs to be made carefully. It’s important to consider as many people as possible to ensure you have a strong case for your claim. Remember, there is no limit on the number of comparators you can choose, but your claim will become complicated the more comparators you name.
Note: You cannot point to hypothetical comparators with equal pay claims. You must be able to point to an actual person, otherwise your claim will not be valid. However, if you feel you’re being discriminated against due to your sex, with this being the reason you believe is behind your unequal contractual pay, you may be able to bring a sex discrimination claim without a physical comparator. This is set out under the Equality Act 2010.
After you have proved that your work is ‘equal work’ to that of your comparator’s, your employer must substantiate that the reason for unequal pay does not relate to your sex.
We recommend that you speak to one of our solicitors in the first instance. But, as part of due process, you will need to inform the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) of your claim. In appropriate circumstances, our lawyers can help you through this process. It is then ACAS’ responsibility to contact your employer and seek ‘early conciliation’, to try and settle the claim. This is a mandatory process, and can take up to 30 days. If ACAS cannot achieve early conciliation with your employer, they will issue a certificate to state so. Then, you can continue with bringing your claim to tribunal.
Unlike other employment claims, you are not restricted to a short time limit to bring your equal pay claim. In fact, you can bring an equal pay claim to tribunal at any time, providing you are still employed under the contract outlined in your claim. You can also bring a claim within six months of your termination of employment from the company in question.
Note: It’s advised that you seek legal advice as early as possible, as there may be changes to your claim in terms of whether it classes as an equal pay dispute or sex discrimination. If it was found to be the latter, the time limit for bringing a claim of this nature to tribunal is three months less one day from the incident. This, and the time it takes for ACAS to seek early conciliation, can mean that you’re left with very little time. It’s important to act quickly in all eventualities.
What if my equal pay claim succeeds?
It’s widely known that equal pay claims can be of high value, as you could be entitled to backdated pay for up to six years, starting from the date your claim is raised. However, it is important that you prove you were doing ‘equal work’ for those six years.
Seek advice early on