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Appendix 2: The right to Equal Pay

The Equal Pay Act 1970, as amended by the Sex Discrimination Acts 1975 and 1986, provides that a woman has the right to equal pay with a man working for the same employer if the woman is employed:

  • on work of the same or broadly similar nature to that of her male comparator
  • in a job which, although different from that of a man, has been rated as equivalent to the man's job under a job evaluation scheme.

The Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983 provide for a woman to seek equal pay with a named male comparator in the same employment engaged in dissimilar work on the grounds that the work done, although different, is of equal value in terms of the demands that it makes. Where the two jobs are of equal value, an employer can justify difference in pay only where the variation in basic pay is genuinely due to a material factor which is not the difference of sex.

It is important to remember that the Equal Pay Act 1970 does not give women[1] the right to fair pay. It gives the more limited right for women to have equal pay to men, when all other circumstances are the same or similar.

If a woman considers she is being paid less than a man, she can apply to an employment tribunal. This is done by filling in a Claim Form, known as an ET1, which is available from the Employment Tribunal's website. Before she can claim, it is necessary for her to have sent a grievance letter to her employer, setting out her claim. She should also identify the man or men who she says is being paid more than her (whilst doing a broadly similar job, or work that is of equal value or has been rated as equivalent under a job evaluation scheme). If she does not give the employer the chance to put things right through its own internal grievance process, an employment tribunal will not allow her to bring a claim (note: this requirement to use the employer's internal grievance process before submitting a tribunal claim is expected to be abolished from April 2009).

As it can be difficult for a woman to know who to compare her salary with, she can use a 'questionnaire' procedure first, which requires an employer to disclose certain information to the employee so both parties can be clear of the facts before any action is taken. You can see more about the questionnaire procedure (and download a sample) at www.womenandequalityunit.gov.uk/pay/update_question.htm.

The law applies in the same terms to a man who claims he is entitled to equal pay with a woman comparator.

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