We are making great strides towards a culture where everybody is equal regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation or ethnic background. As a society this makes us stronger, more modern and fairer than other parts of the world because we acknowledge that we all have a right to equal treatment and equal opportunity. However, whilst we are making progress in all these areas, sadly equal pay is an area that has been slower to progress.
Under the Equality Act 2010 men and women doing equal work of equal value have the right to equal pay. The European Commission also has its own rules and regulations on equal pay.
What does equal pay mean?
Equal pay includes everything from salary, to bonuses and pension contributions. Equal rights themselves are not just limited to pay but also include having equal terms and conditions in employment contracts. If an employer pays a man and a woman different pay for the same job then they would have to show that there is a genuine reason for the difference which is not based on their gender.
This can be very problematic but common reasons have included: market forces, skills shortages, geographical differences and different skills, qualifications and experiences. Even these examples on their own may not be sufficient as once an employee has shown that their work is of equal value yet they are being paid less, the onus is on the employer to show that there is a legitimate reason why there is a difference in pay. If they are unable to do so then they made be found guilty of sex discrimination.
How to take action
To make a claim for equal pay a claimant should be employed carrying out similar work to a comparator of the opposite sex. By similar work we mean that the two employees would have similar
- working hours
Also, the two employee’s jobs must be rated equally under a job evaluation scheme, which will usually be carried out by the employer or by a third party appointed by an employment tribunal in the event of a claim.
If you think you may be a victim of sex discrimination you can find out by asking your employer how your pay is calculated and employers are legally obliged to provide you with this information. If the pay is found to be unequal then employers also have a responsibility to explain the discrepancy to the employee. Employers cannot prevent employees from discussing their salaries, even if a secrecy clause has been inserted into employee’s contracts.
If you have been a victim of sex discrimination then you can bring your claim whilst working or within six months less one day of leaving your employment and your claim will be filed with an employment tribunal. Employment tribunals will then compare your pay to someone of the opposite sex to determine whether you are receiving equal pay or not.
There are two types of remedies available for sex discrimination: declaration and compensation. A declaration is an order from the tribunal to increase the employee’s pay to meet that of the opposite sex. Compensation is likely to be in the form of loss of earnings and interest for up to six years (five years in Scotland). Other compensation, such as injury to feelings or psychological damage is not recoverable from employment tribunals.
It is recommended that before you bring a claim for sex discrimination you approach your employer first by raising a grievance in accordance with your employer’s disciplinary and grievance policy. You should also contact the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), who are an independent and impartial body set up to advise on and improve employment relations. If your employer has a trade union then you could also contact them as they will be able to provide you with suitable advice.
It is worth bearing in mind that sex discrimination laws do not apply only in relation to pay. They also cover: recruitment, training, promotions, redundancies and dismissals.