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, you may be eligible to bring an equal pay claim against your employer. It’s important to seek advice and take necessary action as soon as you can. Call us free on 0808 164 0808.

For information on how to fund your equal pay claim, please see our funding page.

Equal pay law is covered by the Equality Act 2010. It applies to pay and terms and conditions of your employment, including the following:

  • Salary, hourly rate and bonuses
  • Contractual benefits
  • Overtime
  • Working hours
  • Employment benefits
  • Sick pay and holiday entitlement
  • Pensions
  • Redundancy pay

It’s important to note that your employer cannot prohibit you from speaking with your colleagues about differences in pay. Any threats of disciplinary action in these circumstances are unlawful.

Equal work

Before you start an equal pay claim, it’s important to fully understand your situation. You may be in a role that isn’t classed as ‘equal work’ to someone else of the opposite sex, meaning your claim could be invalid. What constitutes as ‘equal work’? Read below for more information.

Employers should pay men and women 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 is always best to seek advice if you feel you’re at an unfair disadvantage.
  • ‘Work of equal value’ – where job roles have equal demands, but the work is different. 

Speak with your employer

It may be worth speaking with your employer in the first instance. Negotiating with your employer to try to persuade them to meet their obligations under equal pay legislation may avoid the need to take any further legal action. If your employer does not resolve the issue informally, then the next step is to raise a formal grievance. A failure by either party to raise or deal with a grievance in accordance with procedures can lead to an adjustment of any compensation award by up to 25%. If the grievance process has not been successful, you can begin proceedings in the Employment Tribunal.

Bringing an equal pay claim

To bring an equal pay claim, you need to identify a ‘comparator’, or ‘comparators’ of the opposite sex, who is a current or previous employee of the same employer. The comparator is essentially your proof of receiving unequal pay. 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.

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. Remember, there is no limit on the number of comparators you can choose.

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 succeed. However, if you feel you’re being discriminated against due to your sex and 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.

Informing ACAS of your equal pay dispute

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. 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 6 weeks. If ACAS cannot achieve early conciliation with your employer, they will issue a certificate. You can then continue with bringing your claim to the Employment Tribunal.

In certain circumstances, we may be able to help you with the conciliation process. Call our equal pay dispute solicitors now on 0808 164 0808 or request a call back.

What’s the equal pay claim time limit?

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: We advise that you seek legal advice as early as possible, as there may be changes to your claim in terms of whether it is classed as an equal pay dispute or sex discrimination. If it is 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 for your equal pay claim

Equal pay disputes are complicated. This is why it’s important to seek legal advice as soon as you can. Contact our equal pay dispute solicitors today on 0808 164 0808, or request a call back and we will call you.


In general you have three months less one day from the most recent act of discrimination or breach to take action, meaning you should act fast.

We recommend you speak to one of our lawyers in the first instance. As part of the process, you’ll need to get in touch with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), who will aim to achieve early conciliation with your employer. However, our lawyers can assist in this process where appropriate and we have formally been instructed.

Please be aware that the ACAS process can take up to around a month to complete, which will be taken from the three months you have to begin with. It’s important to act quickly in order to bring a tribunal claim. If the conciliation procedure is unsuccessful, we may be able to support you with the tribunal. If you feel you have a potential employment claim please act quickly and contact us today.