Equal Pay

Under the Equal Pay Act 1970 women are entitled not to be discriminated against by having less favourable terms of employment including pay if;

* They are doing work that is the same as, or broadly similar to, that of a man in the same employment or employed in the same service, or
* If they are covered by a job evaluation scheme that gives them similar scores to a man doing different work, or
* If they are doing work which is of equal value to a man’s.

Pay is widely defined and includes all aspects of remuneration including pension contributions.

If your job and that of the man you are comparing yourself with have been job-evaluated and your job scores less than his, you will have to prove that the scheme discriminates by, for example, giving unjustified importance to characteristics and abilities commonly possessed by men, or undervalues those of women. You can also compare yourself with a man who is doing work that is of equal value to yours whether or not his job has been evaluated under a job evaluation scheme. In these circumstances you may have quite different jobs.

To claim equal pay you must make a claim to an Employment Tribunal at any time before your employment has ended or within six months after. There is a form of questionnaire that you can use to ask your employer questions relevant to your claim. You can download the questionnaire from: www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk

Your employer does not have to answer it but the Employment Tribunal may take any failure to answer into account when reaching a decision. If your claim is that your work is of equal value, the Employment Tribunal will decide whether to refer your claim to an independent expert appointed under the Equal Pay Act or decide the issue themselves.

Unless your employer can convince the Employment Tribunal that there are no reasonable grounds for making the comparison, your claim is then assessed. If an expert is appointed to carry out the assessment, the Employment Tribunal may accept or reject the expert’s report.

Even if you succeed in showing that your work is equal, your employer may defend your claim by proving the differences in pay or conditions are genuinely due not to sex but to another material factor. If a predominantly female group is generally paid less than a predominantly male group for like work or work of equal value, the material factor has to be objectively justified by the employer. This means that the employer will have to prove that the reason for the higher male pay corresponds to a real need on the part of the employer and is appropriate and necessary. If your employer can show a good non-discriminatory reason for only part of the difference in pay, you should succeed in respect of the balance.

Reasons for the inequality of pay put forward as material factors may include;

* Additional responsibility
* The pressure of market forces
* Seniority.

However, if you can show that the reasons themselves are discriminatory, such as seniority favouring men because they have on average longer service records, the defence should fail.

If you win, the Employment Tribunal can award arrears of pay for up to six years prior to the making of the claim and can change the terms of your contract to give you equality.

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