Equal pay claims are among the most disruptive that can be brought against your organisation. If a woman even suspects that she is being paid less than a male colleague - and that difference in pay is due to her gender - she is able to use a statutory questionnaire procedure to obtain detailed information about who gets paid what within your organisation, and why.
If a female employee discovers that she is earning less, or has any less favourable contractual term, than a male employee (her comparator), then it is up to your organisation to establish that the difference in pay is not due to her sex.
To bring a claim, the female employee must:
- Choose her comparator, who must be a real (not hypothetical) employee of the opposite sex. The comparator may be employed at the same time as the woman, or he may be her successor or predecessor.
- Establish that she is doing 'like work', 'work rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme' or work of 'equal value' with her comparator. These are technical terms, and we can advise you in any given situation whether one of these requirements is satisfied. There is no minimum service requirement to bring a claim, and claims can be brought by employees and self-employed contractors.
How can I defend a claim?
By establishing that the difference in pay or contractual terms is genuinely due to a material factor, which is not the difference of sex. A material factor can be anything from market forces to qualifications and experience.
What can I do to 'equal pay proof' my organisation?
A three-stage process is recommended:
- Have proper policies and procedures that implement the EOC's Code of Practice on Equal Pay.
- Train managers and communicate the pay policy. A policy gathering dust in HR is pointless - it must be communicated to the workforce and followed.
- Create a fair system of pay by ensuring it is transparent and objective, and it is clear what is being paid to whom and why. If a pay system lacks transparency and a female employee is able to show that the average pay of a relatively large number of female workers is less than that of their male colleagues, the employer will have a difficult burden of proof in establishing that its pay practice is not discriminatory.