Equal pay at work: Five ways to be paid fairly

No matter who you are, it’s important to ensure you’re being paid what you’re worth.

In fact, men and women who do equal work for the same employer have a legal right to receive equal pay. So, if you feel like you’re being paid less, what’s the best way to put it right?

We spoke to Employment Lawyer and Editor of Employment Solicitor Magazine, Joanne O’Connell, to find out:


The law

The Equality Act 2010 gives employees a legal right to pay equality with employees of the opposite sex doing equal work for the same employer.

Equal pay doesn’t only apply to the salary you receive. It also applies to your terms of employment. So, this means that your bonuses, pension contributions and holiday entitlement, for example, should also be equal.

The right to equal pay applies to women and men but it’s more common for women to be paid less than men for equal work.

Equal work means doing the same role or doing work that demands the same level of responsibility and level of skillset. There’s a good explanation of the details from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

It points out that under the Act, ‘seemingly very different types of jobs can actually be considered as equal work’.

Why does employment law exist?


Is it the same as the gender pay gap?

The gender pay gap is the way larger employers are now required to report the difference between the average earnings of men and women.

It’s not the same as equal pay.

For example, an employer may have a ‘pay gap’ between men and women but that could be because men hold most of the senior positions and, for various reasons, most of the junior roles or lower paid position are occupied by women.


Do your research

Asking your colleagues what’s on their payslip can be tricky.

If they tell you, it can be a quick way to assess your earnings but if the conversation is a non-starter, there are other ways to research equal pay. For example, you can check job adverts from your employer to see the salaries being offered.

It’s also worth finding out the typical rates for similar jobs in your industry. Having an idea of what you should be paid will be helpful if you take matters further.

Check average salaries in your industry


Ask your employer

Acas, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service advises that:

‘An employee who thinks they are not receiving equal pay can write to their employer asking for information that will help them establish whether there is a pay difference and, if so, the reasons for the difference.’

To do this, you could ask for an informal chat with the HR department, for example, or formally raise the issue with your manager or put your query in writing to your employer.

Some employers will voluntarily disclose what people doing the same work as you are being paid. For example, an anonymised breakdown of the figures may be available, and this can help you decide what to do next.


Ask for an explanation

Ask your employer to explain any pay differences that the data may have thrown up.

In some cases, there may be genuine reasons behind them. For example, pay differences can sometimes arise because of market conditions.

Perhaps historically the company was able to pay higher rates (and people on those salaries have stayed on them) while for commercial reasons, they now recruit men and women into those roles on lower pay.


Taking it further

If you think your employer is paying you less, based on your gender, and not on a genuine difference in your work, you could raise a grievance and try and resolve the issue internally.

If that doesn’t work, you could consider making an Equal Pay claim. Equal Pay is quite a complicated area of law and it’s likely you will need legal advice from an employment solicitor. There are no fees for bringing a claim in the Employment Tribunal, but there will be costs to pay for legal advice and running the case.

If you’re a member of a trade union or you contact the Citizens Advice Bureau, you may be able to access free legal help. A good employment lawyer will be able to assess your chances of success and the likely costs associated with making a claim.


Negotiate a better rate

If you decide to move on, getting a new job is a perfect time to negotiate a higher salary.

Equipped with the pay research you’ve done into your role and the levels of pay in your industry, you could make a real difference to your next salary by negotiating hard at the interview stage and ensuring that you get equal pay in your next role.

Should I ask about salary at my interview?


Remember: Whatever you decide to do, it’s an employer’s obligation to make sure you’re being paid fairly.

So never be tempted to sell yourself short, or accept anything less than you deserve. Even if your employer has valid reasons to justify your current salary, there’s nothing wrong with bringing the conversation up.

Not only will it go some way in making the topic less taboo, it could also help identify the objectives you need to hit in order to earn a payrise in the future.



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