For both employees and employers, it is important to know about equal pay. Equal pay between genders is a hugely important issue and we should all know the context around it and what to do if something is going wrong.

On this page, we are going to give you advice on what equal pay is, what the law says about it, and how you can tackle any potential issues. We hope that this guide makes you feel more informed and more ready to approach the topic as an equal employer. 

What is Equal Pay?

Equal pay simply refers to men and women being paid the same for doing the same work. Equal pay does not just refer to the base salary or wage but all other forms of compensation, terms and conditions. These include pension, working hours, annual leave, holiday pay, overtime pay, redundancy pay, sick pay, bonuses and benefits.  

Historically, women have been at a disadvantage in terms of pay and salary. Even to this day, there are many instances of men being paid more than women for the exact same job. 

This is often a more discreet form of gender discrimination that is kept behind closed doors. However, more and more people are speaking out about this and being open about their salaries. This encourages accountability from employers and prevents the same levels of discrimination from occurring in secret. 

What Does the Law Say?

The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was the legislative action that brought equal pay into the U.K. world of employment. It outlined within this act that an employee cannot be treated unfavourably due to their gender, both in terms of pay and employment conditions.

Moving on in time, the piece of legislation that is most commonly used to protect people against gender discrimination now is the Equality Act of 2010. This act outlines how people must be protected from all forms of discrimination at work. It refers specifically to “protected characteristics” that cannot be discriminated against in any way. These include disability, age, gender, and so on. 

The Equality Act 2010 strictly outlines that a lack of equal pay is a form of gender discrimination. That means that someone could claim a case of discrimination against your company if there is evidence that they are being unfairly compensated in comparison to someone else in the company.  

This law does not just refer to full-time employees, it also includes workers, apprentices, agency workers, part-time, temporary contractors, and the self-employed. 

If you want a more detailed description of The Equality Act, you can head over to our sister site Careers with Disabilities where we have an easy-to-read guide. This guide will help you understand more about the Act and how it works in practice. 

How Can I Tackle Equal Pay as an Employer?

As an inclusive, equal and diverse employer, you will need to tackle the issue of equal pay head-on. A lot of employers won’t and they will sweep everything under the carpet. This is not morally or ethically right, and very often leads to disaster. 

First and foremost, you need to identify if there is an issue within your company or workplace. This is usually the most difficult part, as most companies don’t have multiple employees doing the exact same job so it is trickier to compare salaries by gender. As such, there are a few different considerations that employers need to use to better grasp the meaning of equal work.  

First, you can compare two employees if the role and skills required are the same or similar, which is referred to as ‘like work’. This is the most obvious type of equal work but is not very useful for small-medium size enterprises.  

Second is ‘work rated as equivalent’ in which the level of skill, responsibility and input required to complete the work are the same, although the skills themselves are not necessarily the same or similar. I.e., they are very similar or have the same roles or job titles. 

The last option is similar to the second but it is where the roles themselves are completely different. You can consider two employees are doing ‘work of equal value’ when the level of qualifications, training or demands of the working conditions are the same, even if their role is completely different. 

You can use these three options to compare your employees’ salaries by gender, examining whether “equal jobs” are receiving the same salaries regardless of gender. Once you have identified any potential examples of unequal pay you should set to immediately rectify their contracts. No matter how much it costs to increase the salary or benefits of an employee, it is far less than losing a discrimination claim.  

Next, it is essential that you look into how one employee ended up earning more than another, despite doing equal work. This includes investigating your company culture and any unconscious biases, with particular scrutiny of those in senior positions who have an influence on promotions, hiring and pay raises. It isn’t enough to simply fix an immediate problem and carry on with the same systems at play. You need to dig into your systems of practice and root out gender discrimination. Only then can there be long-term change and growth. 

When is Unequal Pay Not Breaking the Law?

There are examples allowed in the Equality Act 2010 where people are doing equal work but have unequal compensation. This is where there are other circumstances that may influence their pay or benefits. However, none of these other circumstances can be related to their gender, identity or belonging to a particular social group.  

Some examples include: 

  • Where someone’s skills are not of a higher level but are in shorter demand. This kind of employee may be given extra compensation as people with their skills are more difficult to recruit
  • If an employee’s living conditions are different and they have to live in a more expensive area to carry out their work. For example, salaries in London will be higher than in other areas in England due to the cost of living in that area
  • An employee takes on “undesirable” work, such as doing the night shift. However, in this instance, the different pay grades can only be accepted if the option of undesirable work was declined by the other employee

Each of these instances should be carefully reviewed before being made. An internal HR team can help to review cases and consider any possible case of gender discrimination. It is always better as an employer to make sure you are proactively working to rule out discrimination before any can happen. 

What to Do Next

If you want to employ all genders equally and work to be an inclusive employer, you can do so with Aspiring to Include

Our services can help get in touch with a diverse pool of candidates across the country. We can help you access this market in an inclusive way, making sure not to unintentionally exclude anyone along the way. 

If this is something you want to be a part of, check out the services we offer especially for employers, right here

Be part of the change!