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Equal Pay

January 17th, 2010

Definition and Scope

The Equal Pay Act provides that women should be paid the same as men if they do the same job or do a job rated as equivalent or of equivalent value. It also provides that other terms of employment should be the same.

It does so by implying an “equality clause” into employees’ contracts of employment so that any employer who pays a woman less than a man in similar employment is deemed to be in breach of this implied term of the contract.

Broadly speaking a woman has the right to the same terms of employment as a man if:-

1. They do the same job or a job which is broadly similar
2. Their jobs are rated as equivalent by a job evaluation study
3. Their job is of equal value in terms of the demands made (for instance under such headings as effort, skill and decision),

An employer can justify a difference in pay if the difference is genuinely due to a material factor other than the difference in gender, or that if it does directly or indirectly discriminate against women that it can be objectively justified.

Enforcing rights

Equal pay covers both employees and women working under a contract personally to execute any work or labour.

Employees who wish to bring claims of Equal Pay can issue a claim in the Employment Tribunal. There is no qualifying period of employment, before a claim can be made, but any claim must be registered with the Tribunal either during the employment under the unequal contract or within 6 months of the employment under that contract coming to an end.

Where a claimant wishes to claim more than 6 months after the employment coming to an end it is also possible to bring a claim in the County Court within 6 years of that employment coming to an end.

An Employment Tribunal which upholds a claim of Equal Pay can declare what the pay and/or other terms of the contract should be to be lawful and can award the difference between what the employee was paid and what she should have been paid for a period going back up to 6 years from when the claim was started.

There is a provision for a potential Claimant to obtain information in relation to a potential claim for Equal Pay by sending a questionnaire to the employer.

In a claim for work of equal value an Employment Tribunal may decide itself on the evidence presented whether the work is of equal value or it may order a report from a member of the panel of independent experts to determine whether the work in the 2 jobs being compared is of equal value.


Equality and Human rights Commission Leaflet

More information from the Equality & Human Rights Commission

Government guidance

Links specifically for employers

EHRC Equal Pay Toolkit for employers
ACAS Guidance on pay systems



Please note that the information on this page is intended to be a guideline and is therefore a summary of the law only and not a complete guide. Before taking any action based on this information you are strongly advised to take legal advice. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information contained on this page is up to date and accurate, no guarantee can be given to this effect.

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