Asking your employer questions - Equal pay: advice for employees

Asking your employer questions

If you believe your employer has discriminated against you by not paying equal pay, you can use a question and answer process to try and resolve the issue.

To start a question and answer process you should send your employer a statement explaining what happened and why you think that you were discriminated against by not getting equal pay. In the statement you can also ask your employer any questions you might have about what happened.

Sending your employer a statement can help them investigate what happened before answering your questions. Using this process could help you to resolve the issue without having to make a claim to an employment tribunal.

Identify who has better terms and conditions

Identify who is receiving better terms and conditions than you are. These people are called 'comparators'. They must be:

  • the opposite sex to you
  • doing equal work for the same employer or an 'associated' employer

Employers are 'associated' if any of the following apply:

  • one of them has control over the other
  • both are controlled by another organisation – for example a parent company
  • a single organisation is able to set the terms and conditions for both

You could ask others at work about their pay and benefits if it's about equal pay and you think it would help you decide if you've been paid unfairly. For example, you could ask someone of the opposite sex to you who does the same or similar work how much they earn. They're allowed to tell you, but it's up to them to decide if they want to.

If you cannot identify a comparator

If you do not have a comparator, you might be able to make a claim for sex discrimination. You'll need to show you would have received better pay if you were of the opposite sex.

Find out more about:

Explain how they're doing equal work to you

Explain why any comparators are doing equal work to your job. For example, because the job is the same as yours, has been graded as equivalent in a recent job evaluation or both jobs require similar skills.

Ask questions about contractual pay and benefits, not additional payments such as a discretionary bonus pay. For example, you could ask for general information about:

  • how much people of the opposite sex to you who do the same or similar work as you earn
  • the contractual terms and conditions for people of the opposite sex to you who do the same or similar work as you
  • the reason for any differences in pay and terms and conditions, if there are any

Your employer can only give you general information about other people's pay and terms and conditions. They cannot share any personal details about other employees because of data protection law (UK GDPR).

Ask any other relevant questions about pay

You can ask additional questions. For example, you could ask questions about:

  • how your employer decides pay rates
  • what's in a comparator's job description that could explain any difference in pay
  • statistics on the percentage of the workforce who are male or female
  • policies, for example on recruitment or equality and diversity

Sending your employer the information and questions

Send the statement to your employer in an email or letter. You can also ask a trade union representative, if you have one, to send it on your behalf. Depending on your situation you could send it to, for example, your line manager, supervisor, or someone in Human Resources.

If your organisation has a policy on discrimination, you should check the policy to see if it says who you need to send your statement to.

Keep a copy of the information you've sent in a safe place.

Tell your employer where to send their answers, for example your home address, your email address or to your trade union representative.

Make it clear that you need a reply from your employer. Set a date for them to reply by. There are strict time limits for making a claim to an employment tribunal so you should consider this when setting a date.

You could also have a conversation with your employer to talk through what happened. If you do, make notes and keep a copy of them.

Deciding your next steps

Your employer should take your request seriously and reply as soon as possible. However there's no law that says they have to answer your questions.

If you feel the problem has not been resolved, you can:

If you decide to make a claim to an employment tribunal, your employer might need to provide their response as evidence to the tribunal.

The employment tribunal will look at if, and how, your employer answered questions. This could help the tribunal make a decision on your case.

If you have any questions about equal pay you can contact the Acas helpline.

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